Creative Writing – Time to Tune Out and Turn On Creativity

Annette Young

by Annette Young

I am used to setting up a make-shift office whenever I am on my travels. Providing the table is the right height and the chair – relatively comfortable, I can set up my laptop or iPad and still keep up to date with my schedule. Whether I am writing for clients, for the Creative Competitor or, purely on some creative writing task, there’s no need to miss out on work. Working from my office or, at home has long been a familiar practice to me. Many people yearn to work from home, dreaming about giving up their day job so they can write, but, it can be incredibly distracting to do so.

I found this myself in the early days. I had to train my mind to work to order, and that’s not always easy. For most writers, especially when starting out, they are governed by creative impulses, rather than being able to seize a writing opportunity. Yes, even it they have to nail themselves to their chair. I learned to turn off my phone, turn off the television and, sometimes, disconnect from the Internet when the temptation to trawl through Facebook became too tempting.

Even so, I often find that the most distracting can be those who play a prominent role in our lives i.e. our families. You can be self-motivating, dedicated and able to offset most distractions but, it can be  difficult to make others give you the time and space to write.  

Most people feel that writing is just a hobby.  They don’t take it seriously and so, you have to show them that your creativity means something to you. You have to stand up for your writing, be proud of it, and, make sure you write regularly. Of course, there’s a difference between saying it and doing it.

Assuming that you really want to improve your writing and to bring it on leaps and bounds, you need to set up a schedule each day or, determine to write on your day off from work. Ideally, write regularly. Make notes in advance so you can stimulate your creative cells.  It is difficult to train your mind to respond to your demands to write, but, you can do it. It can help if you create some titles or opening sentences so you have a strong starting point.

If you have a spare room, hide away for a while and make the room a creative zone as this will help to boost your creativity.  If you can’t do this, learn to block out the noise around you – yes, screaming children, demanding pets or conversations from your partner can be distracting, but, in time, you will switch off.

If you have ever lost yourself in the pages of a good book, you will know that wonderful feeling of being completely involved in the story and of losing track of real life. That’s what you want to achieve within your own writing endeavors. Once you start to write regularly, (don’t worry about how good the writing is) you will improve your writing technique. You’ll feel great because you are visibly achieving something and more, you will find that others start to respect your creative time.  

Striking the Right Balance

Author Annette Young

by Annette  Young

Have you been watching the new BBC drama Strike – The Cuckoo’s Calling? Written by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling, it’s a 3-part series and as a huge fan of the books, I was particularly interested in how they would turn the story into a short series considering the audio version is incredibly long.

Whether you have read the book or, just like a good crime drama, there are important points to note. Although the plot has to be strong, and it actually is, characterisation is all-important in these types of books and must be strong so to portray well on the screen. There has to be something a little different about the protagonist and there is.

In the books, I liked Strike, the craggy-looking and sounding private investigator. Admittedly, the audio version has a wonderful narrator in Robert Glenister but even so, he comes across as likeable, eccentric and with quite a few demons of his own. His flaws no doubt make him believable and the fact that he is a veteran soldier and had lost part of his leg in an explosion makes him vulnerable and yet, displays great inner strength too. It’s this mixture of traits that make readers buy into him.

I was pleased to see that even in these shortened episodes, they had managed to capture these traits and you couldn’t help but root for him and for his new, obviously capable secretary who appears honest and more than a little competitive. It’s her inner drive that takes her from being his temp secretary to someone who plays a significant role in the murder investigation. This is clever characterisation.

It’s not always easy to create two eminently likeable characters who gel together as well.  Even though the drama misses out the important disharmony between the secretary Robin and her fiancée, where jealousy about her association with Strike becomes an ugly conflicting emotion between them. The dramatization is still strong regardless.

If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you do. If you are watching it, try to consider how you would turn one of your stories or novels into a TV series, picture your characters on the screen and you will also gain an idea as to how much you know them.  This is a key aspect for any writer. Know your characters inside out and consider what will make your readers like or dislike them.  If you can visualise the characters and the scenes as if watching a TV drama, while writing, you will be able to make this become a positive habit.

Send the Dreaded Creative Block Packing

Annette Youngby Annette Young

It’s impossible to prevent the brain from spiralling into the doom and gloom of the dreaded writers block at times and yes, when it occurs, it’s dire. The last time I truly had a bout of the block was when I was in my early 20’s and the block lasted far more than the anticipated few days or months, it was actually a couple of years before I really got back into my writing. This, in the main, was due to my marriage break-up and the subsequent emotional events that occurred and, it wouldn’t happen the same these days because I have taught myself how to kick-start creativity more readily.

If my brain feels a little sluggish,  I tend to go for a walk in the first instance as just being out of the house for a while enables me to switch off from the frustrations and to absorb nature or life as it goes on around me. I may take my laptop or iPad and then work for a while in a cafe. But, there are other ways to combat the curse of the creative block and you need to try different solutions to find out what works for you.

Here are some suggestions:

Re-read your last piece of writing and spend time editing it if necessary. This can be sufficient to free up your creativity.

Collaborate with another writer on a new project. The interaction of another creative soul can kick-start your imagination. Sometimes, just switching to a different creative project can free the mind.

Write down a list of reasons as to why you started writing in the first place. This will gently remind you of your desire to enjoy creativity.

Have you had a rejection letter? These can be creatively debilitating and make you want to throw in the towel but, don’t let it ruin your creativity. Instead, use it to fuel your determination to succeed.

Are you putting too much pressure on yourself to succeed? It’s important to play to your strengths and to nurture the aspects of creative self that needs a little understanding. If you are trying to take the leap from hobby writer to serious writer, then sometimes, self-imposed pressure can be enough to shut down the flood gates of creativity. Take a step back and just breathe. It’s okay to have some time out but make sure you get back on with your writing as soon as you can and, try out some of the other anti-block tips.

Creative Writing

Don’t wait for the block to lift. Sit down for twenty minutes and just write anything. Just let the words come – in any sort of order. It doesn’t matter if your output makes little sense, this is a great way to loosen the grip of the block.

If your brain has well and truly frozen, go and take a luxurious hot shower and relax. This can somehow stimulate your creativity. You can also use essential oils i.e. rosemary to help clear the foggy mindset.

Set yourself some goals i.e. you will have completed the current project in one week, three weeks or two months- choose a time to suit. Don’t make the goal too tight  but ensure that it is not too flexible either.

Struggling to keep going with a project? Perhaps you need to hone your technique a little more? Try out some of our creative writing courses right HERE

Let us know whether you have any success with these block-banishing tips or, if you have any suggestions of your own.  Message us: contact@creative1publishing.com

 

 

Freelance Writing – Put Your Talents to Good Use

Freelance Writer

by Annette Young

Author Annette YoungDo you want to write articles for clients? Do you fancy learning the art of freelance writing? In my opinion, anyone who loves the written word and who has a natural curiosity for life could become a freelance writer. That’s not to cheapen the skills required to write professionally of course, there must be standards, but, if a career (full or part-time) in writing has appeal and you have an ability to uncover facts about any given topic, then, you could become a freelance writer.  There is of course, a variety of techniques to learn before you pick up any paying clients but, if you are going to make money from your endeavors, it’s important to learn the ropes, to understand what makes for a good article and to understand how to gain clients before starting out. There’s always a streamlined approach so you may as well start as you mean to go on.

Importantly,  you must take the role seriously.

This is a vital component to successful freelancing, whether  you want a new career or are doing this as a part-time income. Freelance writing should always be considered more deeply than just as a way to bring cash in, there should be a feeling of satisfaction, a sense of professionalism so that you deliver high-quality material for clients.  You have an obligation to act professionally and to delivery professional-level material. That’s what clients want.

Freelance writing and creative writing are worlds apart. That doesn’t mean that a creative writer cannot be a wonderful article writer but there’s a different mind-set and technique. I work as a freelance writer in between my work here on the Creative Competitor or on Creative1 Publishing, and I’m an author of fiction too. I like to keep my finger on the freelancing pulse and I enjoy the interaction with new clients. I like to research and uncover interesting snippets about a topic and it satisfies or balances the left brain, whereas fiction appeals to my right-brain attributes. For me, learning about new topics actually stimulates creativity and keeps me interested. I swap from freelancing to creativity constantly and it just takes time to develop this as as skill-set but once you do, there’s a never-ending stream of income available. Importantly, if you are going to freelance, do it with intent and do it with pride. I would never offer my clients something that I would not publish in my own name and that’s the secret.

If you are interested in freelance writing and would like to know how to put your interests, experiences and talents to good use, you may be interested in our Freelance Writing Course. CLICK HERE for more details.


Freelance Writer

Writing Competitions – Want to Win? Part Four

Author Annette Youngby Annette Young

When it comes to entering writing competitions, word count is all important and yet, it is something that seems to be overlooked often. As a writing competition judge, I have to check the word count on each submission before it goes into the file ready for judging. This, as you can imagine, is really time-consuming when you are dealing with many submissions. I’d like nothing more than to have people adhere to the rules so I can work on trust but sadly, people blatantly disregard word count rules, perhaps not with real intent, but through not reading the rules and following them.

It was so bad at one point that I even contemplated creating additional competitions without any word restrictions but, why do this when the whole point of entering a writing competition is to follow the rules, and for the writer to pit their wits against other creative individuals. Rules create a level playing field on which to write and enter.  It means you have as good a chance as any other writer when it comes to winning prizes.

Most people struggle with word count because they fail to start their story in the right place. I discussed this yesterday, so click here if you would like to read this post.

When there is a substantial word count, many writers feel that they have plenty of time to build a story. They may not work out a plan prior to writing, instead, letting creativity guide them and so, the result may be that they have a few hundred words on top of the designated word count. You may be surprised at how many submissions are sent without these extra words being eliminated during the editing stage.

If you enjoy writing competitions, don’t resent a limited word count, consider it a challenge. They are designed to test your creativity and to fuel the creative process. Set your mind so that you provide a tightly-written story within these boundaries and this increases your potential to win. If you are not mindful of the set word count, your submission will be deleted from the competition. Harsh perhaps, but fair.

The last thing we want to do is reject submissions. We want to encourage writers and to help them succeed, giving them a platform for success.  So, re-read the rules before submitting and make sure your submission is judged on its own merits.

 

Writing Competitions – Want to Win? Part Three

Annette Youngby Annette Young

So far in this series on how to win writing competitions, or, at least, how to improve your potential for doing so, I have covered the importance of generating a good idea and developing it, turning this basic concept into something original and unique. I’ve also mentioned the importance of characterisation so that any judge reading your submission will become hooked by the events and circumstances surrounding the characters and will connect with them on deeper level.

Today, I want to discuss the importance of creating a super-strong opening. I read a great many submissions and, although I admit, sometimes, the ideas are great and, the writing good, often, the writer starts at the wrong point and the opening is weak and less than powerful because of it.  Usually this happens because the writer has not prepared the idea fully before starting. A writer may also be inexperienced when it comes to developing a story within the confines of a set word count.

Think about it, do you really need to start a story at point A and finish at C, when you can throw the reader straight into the plot at point B where the action takes place and the story is dramatic and compelling? Your role as the writer is to hook the attention of those reading your fiction and to have them dangling on a hook throughout. We look for stories that entertain and that make us want to read on. These are the things you need to consider when writing any work of fiction but especially when the word count is minimal.

So, how can you improve your opening section? By carefully considering the best starting point and eliminating those that lead the story along a winding route which eventually gets to the heart of the story. Do this and your ability to pull the reader straight into the story becomes much stronger.

If you have plenty of words at your disposal, then, your starting point is likely to be different and that’s fine. Just remember, you need to hook the attention of the reader and the writing competition judges if you want to stand a chance of delivering a successful and prize-winning submission.

Tip: Write down 2 or 3 potential starting points and write opening paragraphs for all of them, just to test them out. Which one incites more attention? Which paragraph is stronger? If you are not sure, let family and friends read them and find out why they like it.

 

Writing Competitions – Want to Win? Part Two

Part Two

Author Annette YoungIn this second article in the Writing Competitions – Want to Win series, I am going to discuss repetition in story ideas. While it’s absolutely fine to reinvent an idea, it should only be considered a starting point. I see a great many stories when judging writing competitions which have not been evolved sufficiently. It’s as if the writer has become stuck in the moment and has not known where to take the story so that it develops, extends and even, diversifies. Instead of the creative process leading the way to something quite unique, the process is stopped short, cut off in its prime.

This can occur through a lack of time or, a lack of creativity at that time.

Sometimes, submissions are beautifully written but even well-written stories cannot compete against those that are well-thought out, read well and show much originality. When we review submissions, we look for creativity and technique of course, but it is a joy to see work from a writer who is capable of extending boundaries, taking an idea and developing it to its full potential.

Don’t be too keen to rush a story. Think it through. What could you do that would make an ordinary story shine?

Tip: Begin with your basic idea but then, craft a story that is powerful and compelling by making it an unpredictable read. Think of alternative endings. Throw in a few obstacles. This alone could make you be in with a chance of winning.

Missed Part One? Read it HERE

Want to have a go at entering a writing competition? Click HERE

 

 

Writing Competitions – Want to Win?

Annette YoungPart One.

by Annette Young

I’ve been a writing competition judge for many years, even before I started up the Creative Competitor and we have been going strong for 10 years now. During this time, I, along with the CC team, have judged hundreds of contests and so, I guess what I am saying is that I know a thing or two about what makes for a good writing competition submission.

With this in mind, I’m writing this series to help you power up your submissions so that you think about key aspects of the creative writing process and make practical changes that will hopefully, increase your chances of winning.

On the Creative Competitor alone, we provide a wide variety of writing competitions, many with lucrative cash prizes and so, it makes sense to fine-tune your submissions so that you can really make an impact. I’m not saying that you should worry so much about the submission that you never enter any contests because the very act of entering means you are learning and honing your craft, but, just think about your submission carefully before sending it.

In part one of this new series, I want to discuss the importance of engaging the reader. In the first instance, that will be the competition judges and eventually, the winning submission must then impress and engage the readers. We often have feedback from readers saying how much they enjoyed the winning story or poem on our website and so, when you write your fiction, always consider the reader. How can you connect with them?

Try to always have a character that seems real and who the readers can engage with and understand. This may mean similarities when it comes to the situation they are in or, it may be that the character acts in a way that the reader fully understands or endorses. Character traits are important too, they need to feel the emotional angst or reality of a conflicting situation.

No-one wants to read about a character that doesn’t feel anything, doesn’t do anything and doesn’t care about anything. Your aim is to make the reader bond with your character, throw the character in at the deep end if you need to and make them swim. It doesn’t matter if your story has funny elements, or is serious, sad or just filled with drama, you have to ensure readers can relate to these circumstances.

If you can do this and as judges, we are able to see that you have mastered this element, believe me, that’s a wonderful tick in the box.

Inspired? Ready to start crafting your winning submission? CLICK HERE

Want to writing competitions enter for FREE? Wow! Click HERE

Join me soon for Part Two.

 

Creative Ideas – Stop, Think and Plan

Creative Writing - STOPBy Annette Young

Author Annette YoungIf you are an ideas person, you may find yourself overwhelmed with creative ideas that bombard your conscious mind regularly.  While it’s true to say that some writers would be ultra-jealous of this, there’s no doubt that it can be difficult to pin down an idea from the masses.  But what happens when you do target just one from a long list of creative ideas? Do you just run with it?

As creative people, it’s easy to get carried away by the whole prospect of crafting a fictional world, be it a short story or a novel.  Once we start writing, the words often flow and we are so heavily caught up in the sensation of extending our ideas, crafting characters to drive the story forward and, feeling every emotional scene, but, sometimes, the initial idea will not have longevity.

This is not uncommon. The trick is to take the idea, stop, think and plan, yes, even before you really put pen to paper. Who are you writing for? Do you want to get published or, do you just want to have freedom from daily life and to escape into a wonderful work of fiction? If the latter, don’t stop or plan any further, just enjoy the freedom, and allow creativity to refresh and replenish you.  Writing should always be for pleasure even if you are planning to get your work published, however, if you are seriously writing with the intention of publishing this piece of work, there’s no escape from the planning process.

Consider the following:

Continue reading “Creative Ideas – Stop, Think and Plan”

Build A Creative Platform – Start Today

Author Annette Youngby Annette Young

Writing is about so much more than just the written word. Nowadays, you have to be prepared to promote your work and to be brave and tell the world that you are truly serious about writing. It means strengthening your existing skill-set, being prepared to continue the learning process and, taking the plunge and improving your visibility as a writer too. With this in mind, building a platform is essential if you wish to start attracting potential readers and to make the publishing world sit up and take notice.

The platform in question, becomes a solid framework enabling you to become more well-known in creative terms. You may wish to set up a blog and write regular blog posts, extending your reach by using social media. You may want to write a book and need a platform on which to promote it. Or, you may be a freelance writer and looking to attract new clients while displaying extracts of your work. Whatever your writing goals, a platform is the structure on which you begin your journey.

Like everything in life, the foundations have to be in place. You need a starting point, but one that is solid beneath you and will support you on your learning journey. Professional writers and authors always talk about ‘the platform’ and so, you can rest assured that it is important.  You may wish to write extensively for other sites, perhaps one in particular, and then, this becomes your platform, or, you may wish to have a web presence and share your creative endeavors promoting your site heavily. Your website or blog becomes your platform.

Whatever you wish to achieve creatively, you need a solid starting point and you need others to see your work. If you can envisage this as a gradual journey, so much the better. It will help you to develop the right mindset, the right approach going forward and this is likely to increase your potential for sales.

If you would like to have your own website and to build your platform, do it the easy way. Try our ‘oh so simple’ WordPress training course. 

If you already have a website, don’t just leave it there. Add to it as much as is possible. Include extracts of fiction, opening chapters, an author bio and news about you. Then, promote it through social media including Twitter and on Facebook. If you need help promoting it to the masses i.e. over 38,000 people, check this OUT.

Creative Writing – Getting Started

Creative Writingby Annette Young

Annette YoungIn my mind, the whole process of creative writing is wonderful, yes, even the good, the bad and the frustrating. I admit I am a little biased but, I am not sure that any creative pursuit or hobby can provide as much variety as creative writing. There are so many genres in which to study and so many techniques to learn. Still, if it was easy, it wouldn’t be fun. Right?

As you progress, you absorb a vast array of techniques and you gradually start to utilise these techniques to improve your writing skills. Eventually, you start to develop your own style and begin to write with greater confidence. But, it can take time for this development to happen and when you first start out, understandably, you make a lot of mistakes.

I truly believe that you never stop learning. There are always easier ways to produce compelling material and, more imaginative ways of generating ideas and applying them. But the learning curve can be as difficult or as streamlined as you want  it to be. You can learn quickly if you apply yourself or, you can take your time and learn through trial and error.  Your journey will be personal and unique.

In the last week or so, I’ve been talking to a few of the Creative Competitor News subscribers and, our Write, Learn and Publish members and many have said to me that they struggle to get started. They have ideas but are not sure what to do about it. Do they just write and get the words out or do they have a sense of purpose and plan? Do they write each day and if so, what do they write and how do they even develop winning ideas?  I was reminded that when starting out, the learning curve can seem vast. Yes, it’s absolutely important to cover the basics and as a writer, to know what you can and must achieve and, how you do so.

Then yesterday, I was talking to a friend about the creative process and he  admitted that he wouldn’t have a clue as to how to start writing a novel or even short story. It’s not surprising, there are numerous ways of doing so and the real trick is to understand how to make the relevant techniques work for you so that you can see real results.

Creative writing is a wonderful pastime, more, it’s addictive, especially when you start to develop your skills and see real improvements, which can come surprisingly quickly. But sometimes, you just need a helping hand to streamline the process or, to lay out an effective route forward. However you learn, make it fun and never give up. Try various creative options, flash fiction, twist in the tale stories, horror, comedy and so on. Find out what works for you.  I honestly believe that anyone can take the leap from beginner to professional if they really want to.

Need some help? We have coaching and numerous writing courses to inspire. Check out our latest writing course Creative Writing Toolkit (It’s on offer).

Don’t Wait Until Tomorrow

Time

Annette Youngby Annette Young

Do you find yourself putting things off? I think we all do this, mentally calculating that we’ll find time later or, maybe the next day, especially when faced with the mundane chores of life.

 When I first started writing with intent and was really determined to get my work published, I still found myself putting it off, even though I was really eager to do it.  I had a plan of action, but the actual process of sitting down and starting to write was incredibly hard. But, I know I am not alone in this. We make excuses for our lack of creativity. We plan instead for the next day, wasting hours of potential creative time.  Why? Because we know that it takes a while to get into the creative process and sometimes, writing can be painfully hard. But we should overcome these barriers because the next day, there are even more distractions to face.

Whether you write for fun or to make something out of your writing, it doesn’t matter, you must still harden your resolve if you wish to reach your true creative potential in life.  After all, you don’t know just how good you are, until you try. Don’t put off your creative writing attempts because life disappears.

I was reminded of this only recently when I heard the sad news that two of my friends had died. Yes, they were older than me and yes, they achieved much in their lives but I remember that it was only about 6 years ago – around the time I took the plunge to take the Creative Competitor on the road. My friends were vibrant, funny and larger than life but now they are gone.

No-one wants to think about this side of life but it’s true. If we don’t knuckle down and make the most of our time, one day, there is no more time. This holds true for all of your aims, not just writing goals, of course. Don’t waste time worrying or fretting about life. Use every aspect of your experiences within your writing.

Whether you are serious in your attempts to get work published, or you find the whole creative writing process a release and an escape from the every day world. Do it now.

Don’t put it off. Embrace it and revel in something you love. Time is ticking.

Novel Writing – Too Many Characters?

Characterisation

by Annette Young

As many of you will know, I spend a great deal of my time providing manuscript critiques or editing manuscripts that come in through the Creative Competitor or  Creative1 Publishing and I often see a very common mistake, that of having far too many characters.  Although there’s no hard and fast rule as to the number of characters within a novel, you have to think from the perspective of the reader. Where there are many characters, it is difficult for the reader to truly connect with any or all of them.

It also makes it difficult for the writer.

How much emphasis can you place on each character if you have a great many milling around within the plot? Each character should have a definitive role to play so you need to consider this. It’s true that some books do have a lot of characters and it’s up to the writer to be able to craft and then pull the layers of these creations together to ensure that they add to the storyline rather than to detract from it. In a novel, it is possible to have main characters and secondary characters and those, as I always think of them, who are bit players, these are the characters that are only relevant in certain scenes so the readers do not need to know them that well.

if you are new to creative writing and have the desire to start writing a novel, try to limit the number of characters and make it a little easier on yourself as a starting point. Above all else,  spend time developing these characters so that they feel real as you are writing and so you are able to portray them with confidence. At the core of crafting 3-dimensional characters is your ability to lay the foundations of these beings and to bring them to life slowly by adding essential layers until you truly believe in them. You don’t need lots of  characters to make it interesting for the reader, you simply need a good plot and strong characters that are believable.

If you feel that your characters are weak or that you have too many in your novel, spend some time considering the importance of each one and lose some if you need to. Spend time working on those that are intrinsic to the plot and  you’ll see the difference.  If you can, always try to view your writing through the eyes of any potential reader and assess what they will get from your story, then you’ll keep your writing and intent honest.

Want to learn the art of novel writing? Click here.

Want to learn more about characterisation? Click here.

Creative Writing – Hard Work Pays Off

Creative Writing Tuition

by Annette Young

Annette YoungI’ve always expressed the opinion that if someone really wishes to learn the techniques of creative writing and, to write professionally, they can. They just need to  develop the right mind-set. This means they have to  overcome any  creative obstacles that block their way to success i.e. time, patience, family or work demands. It’s not rocket science to think that if they can find a little bit of time each day, this will keep the creative brain cells well-oiled and improvement will follow.

Going back some (many years) now, I used to tell my creative writing students in my college classes that they needed to write little and often. Many took this advice and there was no doubting that their work and their understanding of the techniques began to improve each week. But then, it was a case of seeing them just once a week and leaving them to their own creative pursuits in between sessions.

Nowadays, I provide a lot of online coaching and this works really well. Sometimes, it involves a Skype session and at other times, students wish to work just via email. Just recently, I have been coaching someone after I had provided a professional critique of his book. It was not a bad read, but, the writing lacked depth and it needed some work.

As he wanted to publish it soon, he had a choice.  Hire a professional editor like myself who could work on the structure of the book and bring it to life, or learn the techniques himself and make the edits.  I was delighted that he actually wanted to learn the techniques and, boy, 3 to 4 sessions a week via email  made a huge difference. His writing abilities have accelerated through the roof. Continue reading “Creative Writing – Hard Work Pays Off”

Keep Those Ideas Coming

Annette Youngby Annette Young

I am constantly asked how to keep creative ideas flowing and yes,  this can be difficult if you feel overwhelmed by the day to day problems in life, feel tired or, just low in spirits. The trick I have found at those times is to take myself out of the office and go for a walk. It may not be a high-tech answer but for me, it clears the cobwebs from my brain.

A change of scenery, a cup of strong coffee and a chance to observe life from your chosen spot is often all you need.

It can help if you can train your brain to respond creatively on demand though. The trick here is to force yourself to write even if you don’t want to. Yes, it’s the last thing you will feel like doing but, once you get past the first stages of, ‘I hate this,’ you’ll find your brain starts to respond. The more you do this, the easier it gets to tap into creativity.

Start to think and feel like a writer. I’ve always said that I live and breathe the written word and if you are writer through and through, you’ll do the same. Even when you are not writing, you are observing life and there can be no better way to get ideas by the masses. Fiction and non-fiction requires the experiences and observations of life. I’ve always said, no experience is ever wasted. At the very least, it becomes fodder for your writing.

If you really want to write with heart and with conviction, go and live a little. It will freshen up your ideas and your abilities no end.

 

Creative Interpretation – The Nuts and Bolts of Idea Generation

creative writing

by Annette Young

Author Annette YoungCreative writing demands many skills but interpreting a scene in a unique way is  a necessary talent to have.  This is why many skilled wordsmiths fail to do well in a writing competition or, when sending stories out in the hopes of getting published. To stand out creatively in today’s pool of eager writers, you have to train your imagination to look for more than the obvious. If you can keep this in mind, you will naturally stretch your imagination a little more.

Take the shower scene photo published  here. It has so much potential in terms of stimulating the mind but often, writers jump on the first few story ideas without stretching them out and pushing and pulling the story into a unique shape. What’s the first thing you think of when you look at it? For me, I considered the vulnerability of the woman. I imagined someone breaking into her house and catching her at her most vulnerable. Let’s face it, no-one really wants to be naked in front of a burglar.

Shower scenes lend themselves well to the horror or crime genre because we all know that vision and hearing is limited when the water is running. We also feel vulnerable and writers who work in these genres know this. They take an everyday scene and add tension and suspense. But, if you were given a photo such as this to stimulate your creative writing skills and you had to compete against others, horror or crime may not be unique.

So, what else could you do with this type of scene? Erotica of course, also springs to mind. This is a popular market in which to write and, it’s not a big stretch of the imagination to take this photo and craft an idea worthy of an erotic fiction market. But even so, erotic writing is a market and not a story, so what would make yours different? You have to think about your story and understand how it will make your readers feel.

Let’s run through a few general ideas:

What if this character turned out to be the burglar who had broken into a house?

What if this character was being filmed – with or without her knowledge?

What if this character was being stalked? Private detective or by an unknown admirer?

What if this character had been injured and the shower scene became part of the aftermath of something traumatic?

What if the character was getting ready to go on a hot date?

What if the character slipped and had no way of getting help?

What if someone left an ominous message in the steam on the bathroom window?

These are just very quick ideas but there are a great many options for the savvy creative writer. Just remember, it doesn’t always have to be about the (in this case) shower scene, but the character and the events that unfold. The scene could be a small part of but not necessarily, the central core of the story. Scenes can be used to create intimacy, to instil tension or fear or, to invite the reader to take a step closer to the story.

There has to be a healthy mix between imagination and writing technique. The most wonderful story idea in the world will not get published if the writer’s ability to hold attention and to progress the story is insufficient. In the same way, a truly talented writer will not get far if their imagination is stifled and they are not prepared to commit to their idea generation.

Next time you are looking to use a photo as inspiration, take the time to develop your ideas and stretch your imagination to the full. You may find it really pays off!

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Shower Image: Unsplash – Joe deSousa

Creative Ideas – Think Outside the Box

Idea generation

by Annette Young

Sitting in front of your computer with little idea as to what to write about is no fun. If this happens to you, then you are not alone. Sadly, creative ideas do not always respond to the demand of the blank screen anymore than they did with the blank sheet of paper. Of course, a little planning and preparation before your allocated writing time will pay dividends.

If you are really stuck and your mind is in a complete fog, it can pay to approach idea generation from a different angle. I’ve long said that creative ideas come from all around you. Let’s be realistic, the moment you step outside the door, you are bombarded with potential ideas from all types of sources. A conversation with a neighbour may spark off an idea and act as a trigger for a great idea. Open your eyes and mind as you walk through your local town centre, become aware of what is around you. Look up at the buildings around you. Notice a bricked up window – think about why it might have been done. Or, notice little alleyways or old doorways that incite interest. Go walking in the countryside and become more receptive to the natural scenery which can act like a salve to a fraught mind. Ideas really are there waiting for you to spot them.

But, sometimes, you have to shake it up a bit. If you think outside the box, you can find other ways to increase your creative mojo.

Facebook

Whether you love it or hate it, Facebook is filled with ideas. Not only can you see interactions between family and friends but also, read so many different posts, and then there are the memes and photos which should spark off lots of great ideas.

Online Forums

If you have signed up for any online forums, you’ll know that people don’t always stick to the main subject. Lots of conversations and ideas can develop from just reading about the concerns of others. Often, current issues pop up time and time again, but there’s often a whole lot more too. Even if these do not meet your current needs, write down some topics and you have a collection of potential ideas for later. 

Amazon

I’m including Amazon here as fodder for ideas but it could be any online bookshop. All you need to do is browse through and allow your brain to take any idea to the next level.  You are not copying of course, it’s just a starting point. The more you can develop, tweak and adapt it the better. Once your mind has a grasp of the concept, give it free rein.

There are so many ways in which to create wonderful creative ideas but, if you are really stuck, try the above and see where these ideas take you.

But why wait? You can be actively inspired if you join Write, Learn and Publish.

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The Amateur Sleuth

Amateur sleuth
by Annette Young
As part of our e-learning creative month, I wanted to take look at the art of crafting an amateur sleuth. The murder mystery or mystery genre is seriously popular but although competition is fierce, if you can create an amateur sleuth with all of the required traits, you could be onto a winner. This is an area of writing in which I love to write and, the amateur sleuth requires very specific traits and, must be crafted in a unique way, that’s if you wish to bring your super sleuth to life. 
 
So what makes for a good sleuth? 
 
When I created my first novel Who Killed September Falls? I wasn’t planning to turn the main character Arianne Tawnison into a typical sleuth, but, as a journalist, I wanted her to have a natural curiosity and sense of stubbornness. I also wanted to create a woman who was driven to find out the truth irrespective of the danger she was in herself. My focus through her at the time was solely on the death of her friend and that was the catalyst to make her enter the world of sleuthing and for her to travel from England to France to try to unravel the secrets surrounding her friend’s death. Importantly, I wanted to bring to life the sadness of the murder and of course, the shock factor. But, the more Arianne searched for clues, she discovered the many secrets woven around her best friend. As I wrote the story, I realised that the character Arianne Tawnison was simply too strong to use in just one story and so her journey continues even now. 
 
But if you are looking to create your own amateur detective, it’s good to look at some of the greats. 
 
Miss Marple is a prime example of a nosy old spinster who has a keen eye for the unseen and, who lives and breathes the psychology of those around her. Observation is one key skill as is having an analytical mind.
A sleuth must be able to see beneath the gloss and to dig deep into the crux of the matter. An amateur sleuth has to be strong in personality but importantly, have very unique traits that make the reader buy into the whole story. Your readers need to remember your character once they have finished reading and be oh so keen to read more.
I knew that I had captured the readers’ attention when I received some wonderful feedback about the depth of emotion and the journey that my personal amateur sleuth took. It’s a great feeling to know that you have created a memorable character and there’s something wonderful about crafting characters that  count, even better if you can use these characters again and again. Each time you do, the character becomes more and more familiar and takes on a life all of its own. 
 
If you want to know more about how to create an amateur sleuth, there’s a short but in-depth writing programme available which looks at the nuts and bolts of amateur sleuthing. Start at your own leisure and complete when ready. If you want to create your own Ms Marple or similar, this may be for you. 

Your Way to Creative Writing Success

Writing Success

by Annette Young

When you first start creative writing, it can seem like a mammoth journey to take before you feel comfortable with your writing and can start to believe in your own abilities. It also takes a while to find your ‘voice’ and style. Part of your creative journey is to find out your writing strengths and to build the foundations of your skillset but you need to also accept any weaknesses that may be present currently and to spend time working on those areas which you may not enjoy quite so much. As with anything in life, sometimes we veer away from those tasks or elements which are not quite so appealing.

Let others see your work. This can be scary if you are not confident but it’s part of your progression. There’s a sense of joy and accomplishment when others read and enjoy your work and then you can progress to the next stage of your development by having a professional critique. This will enable you to understand any work that is required before you even think about publication.

It’s also a good idea to meet other writers. Join a writing group if you can or, team up with a like-minded individual and work on some writing projects together. This can help take the isolating factors away from writing. There is always something to learn in creative writing and this is good because it means you will not get bored but continuously strive forward learning new techniques until you can think and feel like a writer.

Never be scared to try out new writing techniques. You may naturally be drawn to one element of writing but in fact, your natural talent lies in another area. When teaching at college level, I found many of my students had fabulous writing skills but they had never even tried those aspects of writing before. When you try out new techniques, you increase your ability to write but you also expand your mind. Most of all, have fun with your writing. Set yourself mini-goals, write to deadlines, enter writing challenges, have a writing party where you have friends and families attending creative sessions.

The more time you can spend creatively, the more instinctive your writing will become. 

Do you need help with your writing? Try our Fiction Masterclass, Novel Writing Blueprint or, any of our Creative Writing Courses.

Conflict in Setting

Conflict

by Annette Young

Last night I ventured into Torrevieja (Spain) and found a peaceful place alongside one of the marinas where in the early evening, the sound of holidaymakers faded into an acceptable distance and the main sound was of water gently moving and boats swaying. It was peaceful to say the least and with a fading blue sky and temperatures slightly dipping, it was easy to let go of the tensions of the day and to just slip into observation mode.

Over the months, it has actually become a favoured spot where I go to recharge the mental batteries and to unwind. There are always people wandering past the bar towards their boats and occasionally, beautiful boats pull out into the deep waters or return to their designated mooring space. Then there are those who like me, find the place an oasis of tranquility – a refuge from the intense heat of the town and away from the throngs of holidaymakers. There are always a few people milling around, but mainly those who have come to stay in one of the apartments situated behind the few bars strategically placed along the waters edge. As night cast its shadow over the scene, the place suddenly came alive with candles aesthetically placed, and flickering light plus lamplight, sparkling, the light rays mirrored in the fluctuating waters, affording the outside space a cosy, shimmering feel. 

Then, out of nowhere, the sound of a singer being strangled or tortured to say the least, fragmented the peace as his booming voice carried across the marina deafening all who were close. Although I have found much of the entertainment in Spain to be a little cheesy, usually I enjoy it regardless, and the atmosphere deepens but last night, it was too loud, too copied, too false and, it was the wrong time and place.

But you may ask, what has this to do with writing?

Simply this, as the tranquility fractured around me, I couldn’t help thinking about the importance of setting within fiction writing and how writers have to be able to conjure up a scene and relay this to the reader so that it comes to life in a believable way and that it feels right. Last night, all I could think was that the singer and the setting were in conflict with each other. They didn’t match, it most certainly didn’t feel right and the people in the outdoor restaurant, were helpless prisoners as their ears were tortured.

While I may exaggerate just a little, the setting and the entertainment were in sharp contrast to each other. There was little thought into how suitable a setting or how suitable the entertainer would be. If a string quartet had been placed alongside the boats, the music would have enhanced the setting, generating a rhythmic atmosphere to maximise the beauty of the waterside scene. If a harpist performed solo or soft, lilting Spanish music was played, a beautiful scene would be transformed further. But this was not the case.

Writers can observe these conflicting settings and use them to add elements to their writing either to accentuate an irritating event or, to avoid creating conflict within a setting to avoid alienating the reader. There’s nothing worse than a reader questing the way a character thinks or acts or, if the scene is less than real to them, it only stops the readers from becoming involved in the story.  

Writing is all about observation and you can create wonderful ideas, develop new characters or even comprehend the complexities of layers just through watching life unfold around you. With your eyes open and having a natural instinct to create, it is possible to breathe new life into your fiction simply through awareness. At the very least, life will spark off new ideas and will warn you of fiction pitfalls.  

Check out the Novel Writing Blueprint and learn the foundations of a successful novel or, take our Fiction Masterclass and bring your stories to life. 

 

 

 

 

Easy Ways to Destroy Your Novel Writing Success

Novel Writing

by Annette Young

Even the most enthusiastic and passionate of writers can murder their chances of being successful in their novel writing efforts if not careful and over the years, I have seen many writers make many mistakes which have scuppered their attempts to have their novel published. As such, I’ve compiled a list and and if any sound worryingly familiar, do your best to avoid them in future.  

Waiting and wondering

Sometimes inspiration is slow to strike. It happens to everyone but yes, it is frustrating. You may have the time, the space and the inclination but the blank page from your new computer is quick to mock you for your inactivity, so what do you do? The worst thing (and most common) mistake for new writers is that they sit and wait for the lightning bolt of inspiration to zig zag out of the sky and to replenish their creativity. Oh, if it were only that easy. Sometimes, you have to give your imagination a jolt the old-fashioned way and just start writing. Each word might be painful and your brain will protest but nail yourself to that chair if you have to.  

The evil inner critic

As writers, we are often so hard on ourselves. We expect the words to tumble like gemstones in a perfectly polished state so that little editing or rewriting is required, sadly, it doesn’t happen this way. The writing process certainly is demanding and if you are one to give yourself a hard time on the occasions when those words do not flow and much of the work has to be rewritten, try to stop those negative thoughts.  Even the most prolific and experienced of writers have to push their inner critic to one side or, better still, banish it from the room.

Oh, the arrogance

While the inner critic demolishes their own chances of success, by contrast, the arrogant writer will blame everyone else for their inability to get published or to make money from their endeavours. The road to writing success is never easy for anyone but being arrogant if and when failure occurs will not help one little bit. I have witnessed the arrogance of would-be writers many times and just having a natural talent with the written word does not automatically ensure success. If a publisher or editor decides to reject your work, they do so for a reason. Perhaps the guidelines were not read and inwardly digested, or perhaps they were read but simply ignored? Sound familiar?

Rushing

With the relative ease of being published these days, some writers are guilty of rushing their work and then, once published, wonder why feedback is far from sweet. Often writers take the kind words of their families or friends as gospel and then publish immediately instead of doing the sensible thing and requesting a manuscript critique where any errors or developmental needs would be highlighted. It’s far better to take an extra week or so and have the book polished and ready to publish than to read numerous negative views. Ouch.

Holding onto the baby  

Some writers refuse to send their creative baby out into the world, they hug these creations, clasping them tightly and refuse to let anyone see them. Their novel may have become the next best-seller but even if not, if hiding creativity away, there’s no chance of progression at all. If a lack of confidence is the issue, improve your fiction writing skills (and your confidence) by signing up for one of our classes, or join a local college writing course. Some writers finish their novels and place them in a drawer and they are never seen again. What a shame.

Calling it a day

Some writers work feverishly for weeks or months and then get completely stuck. Instead of asking for help by the professionals, they decide writing is not for them, it’s too hard. Well, yes, writing is really hard and that is why when success happens, it is so amazing. The joy of being published is simply incredible, yes, whether self-publishing or not, people can read your novel. You become a novelist. Now that sounds good right? So don’t quit unless you really don’t care. After all, you don’t walk into a new job and perform perfectly do you? You have to learn the relevant techniques and processes and this is exactly the same for writing.

If any of these errors sound more than a little familiar, do something about it. That novel idea you have or the half-written novel tucked away in a drawer could be the best thing ever. Don’t hide it.

If you need help with your writing, talk to us. Email: info@creative-competitor.co.uk

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Why Fiction Needs More Than the Humdrum

Bringing fiction to life

by Annette Young

Normal life is filled with all of those deadly dull tasks, you know the ones, house cleaning, shopping, washing or the excitement that is mopping the floor and although fiction emulates real life, the last thing readers’ want is to be reminded of the drudgery that occurs in life. Fiction is about escapism.

Irrespective of the genre, a good story helps the readers’ to forget their own problems. It’s about their sitting back and putting others in the front line and watching them combat the perils of fluctuating emotions, experiencing the dark depths of inner turmoil and overcoming the deadly or dangerous obstacles of your making. Somehow, following a character across war-torn countries, watching them dangle precariously from snow-capped mountains or wrestling alligators in the mosquito-infested swamp is a lot more interesting than reading about a character who is battling boredom while ironing. 

You get the idea. 

Of course, there has to be some mention of real life.There have to be some similarities between the plot, the characters and the reader’s experiences. They have to like or loathe the characters to the point that they are captivated – if they feel indifferent then no doubt the writer has failed. The readers have to witness the scenes around the characters come to life, they should be enthused by the imagery, the colour and the feel of the story as it unfolds. If there is mention of an ironing board, it should be relegated to the corner and not play a main role in the midst of the room unless someone is being bludgeoned to death by it. Draw the readers’ attention to what matters. They needs to be whisked away to a fictional world that  is all-consuming and one that seems real. 

Even the most vibrant and imaginative fantasy story has its roots in reality and each genre should have its foundations in realism. The author has to comprehend which essential components should be included so that the story feels credible and to know the elements of normality that can be discarded. 

Want to learn more about the art of fiction? Check out the Novel Writing Blueprint and the Fiction Masterclass

Writing Fiction – Who Are You Writing For?

Writing Fiction

by Annette Young

When you start writing fiction, you may find that you write only when the creative urge strikes. You are not necessarily planning your writing time and may have little idea as to what you will be writing. As you progress and the writing bug bites, it’s a good idea to sharpen your focus and to really consider what you want to write and who your target audience will be. Even if you are only writing for the sheer fun of it, you’ll improve the outcome and your abilities so it’s a win-win. 

There’s no doubt that knowing who you are writing for will help as it helps you to fix your mind-set before you start and it ensures you remain focused throughout. 

If you want to write short stories, which genre are you focusing on? Is there a particular publication that you love to read and you hope your stories will fit? Do you want to write a novel? Again, have a clear idea as to the genre. What do you like to read? If you love fantasy novels then you may wish to write something similar because you’ll know – on a sub-conscious level at least, the essential components to great fantasy fiction. If you want to write a suspense thriller, you have to consider the characters and how they can avoid or prevent the ‘suspenseful event’ from occurring.

If you are writing romantic fiction, it’s all about the characters, the rising passions and the obstacles that prevent them from getting together. If you want to write for the YA fiction market then the style of writing and language used will change also. Each genre will require different elements.

Who is your target audience? All these things need to be figured out before you start and it will make your creative writing pursuits easier and far more effective. 

If you want to know more about the art of fiction writing, sign up for the Fiction Masterclass at start at your leisure and have fun with fiction. Are you a writing enthusiast? Take a look at our Special Offers Page, there may be something to help you with your writing endeavours. 

Characterisation – Falling Out of Love

Life as a writerby Annette Young

It’s not a great feeling. You prepare to start writing and then you have to face up to the feeling, you have lost belief in your characters and worse, you don’t even really like them that much.  If you feel this way, stop, there’s no point plodding on because the finished result is likely to be that your readers don’t care a jot about your characters either.

 Good characterisation is vital. You really have to care about your characters and be prepared to invest in them in respect of your time, your energy, your experiences and your desire to bring them to life. If you have done all this and yet, still, you feel a little flat, you need to identify what’s wrong with your creations and consider how to make vital changes. 

If you have created character profiles, then take the time to review them. It may be that your character profile is insufficient and your focus has wandered a bit throughout the developmental stage. It may be that your plot has digressed and your characters no longer quite fit with your initial vision. 

It’s easy to make changes, as long as you are honest about your waning interest. Battling on and gritting your teeth determined to finish will always make the end result a little lack-lustre. There’s no cheating the steps towards creating great fiction and characters that do your story proud. Writing fiction can be difficult enough but when it comes to characterisation, you really do need to consider what you want to achieve and go all out to do just this. 

I would always recommend creating character profiles if you are working on a lengthy piece of fiction. It will keep you on track but enables you to really get to know your characters quickly and easily. If you feel that your characters just don’t do it for you, stop, think and then amend some of their traits. Remember, for a character to be believable, they have to have likable traits as well as traits that are irritating. In real life, we are never all good or all bad. We have good and bad habits as will your characters.  Think about how you would like your character to be viewed and add in a few quirky but nice qualities and you’ll soon enjoy writing about your characters once more. 

If you have a clear vision of all that you are trying to achieve, you’ll spot any potential issues sooner than later. 

For more information on fiction and good characterisation, take a look at the Fiction Masterclass

Writing Fiction – Life, Language and Observation

Observation in writingby Annette Young

 

I sometimes cannot believe how fast the time goes by. It seems only minutes since I blinked and was ready to welcome the weekend in and now, it’s come and gone again. It was a productive weekend in terms of writing and planning however but I’ve always said that the whole creative process is much more than actually sitting down and committing words to paper. Sometimes, it’s the silliest of things that can spark off the imagination and make you think about life in a whole new light.

 

Relaxing with a glass of wine at the weekend, I stared out over the surrounding villas with the sun sparkling over the roof tops and the sound of water splashing as children played in a nearby pool. Even though, there was noise, the scene was still tranquil…for a short term before car horns trumpted through the early evening breeze and then a creshendo of voices broke the scene and dissipated. My thoughts turned toward the people who had begun to laugh in their gardens, voices sounding ever nearer as they turned their volume up and was reminded, irrespective of the tranquil scene, just how noisy the Spanish folk around me are. 

 

While I certainly do not mean this to be disrespectful, there is a noted difference between the cultures here and I am surrounded by many – Russian, French, German, Danish, Dutch and Spanish of course. I am endlessly fascinated by the variety of accents and the different tones and…volume. 

 

One moment, I was feeling more than a little relaxed, content to watch life go by and the next minute, I was out of my chair, convinced someone was being murdered as the sound of rapid and somewhat volatile words shattered the tranquility around me.  Half-expecting to see a dramatic scene unfold, instead, I watched as a Spanish couple barked loud comments at each other while walking past my gate and then, as if choreographed, and with perfect timing, fell into each other’s arms. 

 

You may wonder what this has to do with writing but, think about this, when we write fiction, our aim is to conjure up characters that feel real and that are strong enough to connect with the reader. So we have to think about the uniqueness of people, the differences between men and women and of course, the differences of culture too. Sometimes we live parallel lives with others, we may share similar thoughts and feelings, go to work each day, enjoy a drink in the evening to wind down after a day filled with pressure and we may laugh and smile at the same things. Yet under the surface, sometimes that’s where our parallel lives end. 

 

Language is a wonderful thing but, without understanding the words or the pronunciation, we are left with our imagination, with speculation and to try to read the signals from body language. That’s something to consider when you create your next character. Are they easy to read and understand or complex, hot-blooded and feisty? Where does your story take place and can you blend a variety of cultures portraying them in a convincing and yet sensitive way?

 

There’s so much you can do with your characters, you just have to absorb life as it happens around you and each impression can greatly fuel your ability to create 3 dimensional characters. Or…………………….you can simply join us on The Fiction Masterclass….and let us bring the technique of characterisation to life for you.
 

Writing and Publishing – What’s the Rush?

be a successful writer

by Annette Young

We live in a fast-paced society, I think you will all agree but, as a writer, I am starting to believe that collectively, there is a worldwide urge to churn out content as if there is no tomorrow. It’s fine to speed-write, I do it myself but I do spend days meticulously going back through my work and then, I have my wonderful editor/proofreader Maggie Burns who works for the Creative Competitor, cast her steely eyes over much of it.

When I wrote my novel, Who Killed September Falls? I did so in a month – I couldn’t take any more time off from my other client work and I wanted to prove that you could indeed write a full-length work of fiction in a limited time-frame if you really wanted to. With each completed chapter, I emailed my colleague and she edited the words – checking for punctuation errors but, we also discussed my goals as well as queried any discrepancies. This approach ensured speed and efficiency as well as accuracy.  

If you are a writing enthusiast, you’ll know that it’s all too easy to make mistakes. You get so caught up in your plot that you romp ahead without realising that your characters have evolved and the plot has now become more complex and then, with your mindset firmly on your original idea, you trip yourself up with these subtle changes and before you know it, bam, there’s a great big hole of inconsistency running through your plot. 

I blame the roller-coaster entity called digital publishing for this urgency to write and publish. It’s all too easy these days to get work published that somehow, as writers, we have belittled the craftsmanship of the writing process. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the digital publishing options out there. Although as published writers, we all know the flaws of Amazon and other publishing entities, we do know that without these companies, opportunities to carve out a living in the writing arena greatly diminish. In terms of benefits, it does enable good writers who were likely to remain stuck in the slush pile of publishing, to have a good opportunity to succeed. It works and I’ve made money from digital publishing but, and, there is a BIG BUT, I also see published work out there which has blatantly had very little thought going into it. 

I find this difficult to understand.

As an editor, I see a lot of fiction and non-fiction books and I help to bring them to life. I polish those words and I consider the inner message that the writer is trying to convey. I think about the target audience, I think about the consistency and style and whether those words will engage the reader. But these are the lucky books – because they have reached the experienced hands of a professional and, the writers have the commitment and desire to their project to ensure that those words are as good as can possibly be. But there are thousands of books and stories published today that have not had the professional touch. The words may still be ultra raw, a talent in the making, or, the story may have little to no substance and the characters fail to touch the hearts or minds of the readers. 

This will only deter readers from buying unknown names. 

So, this is what happens when we rush a writing project or do not care enough to edit, re-edit and then send it to a professional to give it their seal of approval. I have had some excellent books sent to me but which needed a great deal of help and there’s nothing wrong with that. As editors, we do not judge, we just focus on the task at hand, but as a reader, it is impossible to not judge a published book.

There’s a reason why successful authors the world over have editors and proofreaders. They care. 

I know that it’s difficult to produce a sufficient level of words when you work all hours and have to fit in your writing at odd times and so a lengthy project i.e. a novel, can take up months and years of hard slog but, that’s okay. You must write at your own pace. If you are desperate to get your book written but are seriously struggling, have it ghost-written and sell it in your name. If you have captured a full-length work of fiction or non-fiction to paper but are not sure whether it needs more work, have it professionally critiqued. 

All of these options prove that you care about the end result but for all those who churn out their words and never have it professionally evaluated or edited, you are taking a risk – not just with your own work but you also de-value the face of publishing. Let’s be honest, the publishing industry is filled to over-flowing with books that rarely do much in terms of sales and those that are sold but do not provide an enjoyable read are slated by readers (and rightly so) and this knocks sales dead in their tracks. But it does more than that, it adds an air of amateurism to the whole digital publishing or Indie industry. 

I advocate writing as much as you can when you can. We can’t progress unless we write and learn from our mistakes. Let those words pour from the soul, live and breathe the whole writing process and let your story be told, but don’t think that publishing sub-standard work is alright. To be a real writer, you have to care about your story or your idea, it has to have merit and integrity. To be a successful writer, you must stand by your words and create the best book or work of fiction that you can. I always think that writing is a little part of you, you breathe life into it, you give it soul and you add some of your own experiences and beliefs and maybe, if you truly care, you add a pinch of magic to it too. It’s this extra ingredient that will make your work shine above all others and enable it to rise to the top. The other elements ensure that your book has a right to take its place alongside books from top authors because you have created solid foundations upon which to carve out your writing career. 

So if you suddenly have the temptation to churn out work and publish it immediately, resist that urge. Instead, think about your readers and go for the long haul. This might only mean an extra week or two of polishing but make no mistake, your words will shine and you’ll be proud to be called a writer. 

Need any help with your book? Don’t know who to trust? We can help. Take a look at our list of author services or email any questions to: info@creative-competitor.co.uk

Looking Back Creatively

Writing

by Annette Young

I have long advised writers to cherish all of their writing attempts and to have a file – whether offline or online so that they can dip into those past realms of creativity, to remember the influences of the time and to even cast a smile at those early attempts. But looking back also provides a fantastic way to chart your personal progress. 

I did just this today. 

The Creative Competitor site is absolutely huge. Due to former technical problems, we had to strip back a lot of the content (and by this I mean un-publish) so that we could determine where the core technical problems existed, and so we came across a huge amount of long forgotten content. Even though, the technical problems were resolved, going through all of the old content is a massive job and still a work in progress and today, I dedicated an hour to the task changing categories and sub-categories and eliminating out of date writing techniques and tips so that the content is accurate and easier to find. While  doing so, some of my early articles emerged from the depths of the site and made me smile. 

My early writing style was noticeable and it was all to easy to recall those early influences. Although I rarely have time to blink, let alone look back, it certainly can be satisfying to do so. Not only did I recognise my progress in writing but it was an enticing reminder of those creative moments and I could visualise myself sitting in my old office, typing away on one of my first computers, still learning all the technical aspects as well as trying to write ‘THE ARTICLE’ that would gain me early recognition. I remembered all my hopes and inspirations at that time and it was a wonderful trip down memory lane.  

When I think back to how far my own creative journey has come and, is still continuing to grow, it simply amazes me. Little did I know right in my early days of trying to write professionally just where my creative endeavours would take me. I never imagined years later having a website like The Creative Competitor, I never imagined I would become a professional writing tutor teaching adult learners at college level, I never imagined that I would write full-time for a living, although that was something I yearned for. I think all writers should rummage through their files and recapture those early days, the excitement, the anticipation of publication and the sweat and tears when those annoying rejection slips arrived.

The realms of publishing have changed substantially in the last decade but I bet your writing has done so too. 

When you look back you may be shocked at the changes. You may think that some of your writing lacked a professional touch or that the ideas were weak or that your stories lacked depth but that’s just fine. That’s part of your journey. Re-use ideas by re-writing them. Compare the old with the new and add the wealth of experience to your words too. 

Looking back creatively can really help you to progress and to re-kindle your love of the written word. 

Carve Out A Writing Niche

successful writerby Annette Young

 

I had an in-depth conversation yesterday with a friend who was thinking about writing a book. When I asked her what she wanted to write about, she just shrugged, the desire to write was strong, but the type of book or subject had not been thought through sufficiently. Although this might sound strange, I hear from a great many people who have the urge to write but are vague as to the topic and, without a doubt, the subject matter is a vital component to success. 

 

She had dismissed the idea of writing a novel and wanted in some way to write about a subject that she knew about. As the conversation deepened, I realised that she had little faith in her own abilities. She knew about much in life. She had learned to play the piano and the guitar when young and had helped many people to learn the basics over the years. Five years previously, she’d taken on an allotment and had created a vegetable patch to be proud of. Having never grown anything in her life, she’d turn the allotment into an organic area – so it was managed naturally and without the use of any chemicals or pesticides and it yielded a steady flow of vegetables throughout the year. When I suggested that others would want to know how she had done this, she rejected the idea as being one that would not really impress many. 

 

Personally, I felt that she was wrong but we continued to go through an extensive list of many talents and she now has a shortlist of topics and has to (with much deliberation) choose just one. Her story is really not uncommon. A great many of you probably have extensive knowledge in specific areas of life which may be invaluable to someone else who does not. These days, writing as an expert does not mean you always have to have credentials or qualifications, but you do need experience and you do need to believe in your ability 

 

If you fancy writing a non-fiction book, consider niche topics that may be popular and consider the content carefully. It can help to break down content into potential chapters so you can see how long the book would be and how much research is needed etc.  You may be surprised to realise just how much you do know. 

 

Freelance Writing – Develop A Strong Business Approach

Annette Youngby Annette Young

People think that the freelance writing lifestyle must be wonderful and it is in so many ways, but make no mistake, life as a self-employed individual is not always easy. There may be a great deal of creativity still but, there’s no mistaking the need to be business-like in every aspect of your career. 

Just because you plan to write your next article while relaxing in the sun, it doesn’t mean that your words are not wonderfully sharpened or focused. You must have targeted your client, considered all that you wanted to achieve and more, developed a strategy for success. 

When starting out, you need to pay special attention to your accounts. There’s no point being lazy in this aspect, even if you dread it. You have to feel confident that the work you do is paying your bills and importantly, it is worth your time taking on some projects. I know many writers who have over-looked this element of the freelance writing game, overwhelmed by the buzz of actually making a living from the written word. It’s easy to be carried away. 

It’s also incredibly easy to panic and not to know where the next penny is coming from, especially if you are not so good at planning ahead.

So, even from the moment you decide to set up your freelance writing business, remember this, you must plan meticulously, set goals, consider overheads, consider outgoings and make sure incoming revenue gives you enough to fund your lifestyle. Freelancing is often seen as an attractive prospect as it has very little overheads – the cost of a good laptop and a workspace and you are ready to go, but it can be difficult to get new clients initially and, to be able to rely on them totally. The life of a freelance writer can mean juggling workloads profusely so you must be sure of your time and skill-set to do so.

Some clients will pay you late and others, are wonderful and they pay you exactly on time, returning to use your services over and over if you have provided them with high-quality material. When you start out, you will have to build in time for job applications, vying for those tempting jobs against a great many others. The time it takes to do so, should be added to your costs, it is your time after all. 

As in any type of business, you must prove you are the person for the role. Your writing must be error free, your writing represents you and you must be able to develop excellent rapport with your clients – as with employers the world over, some clients will be difficult to get on with.

Just because you work from home does not mean life is easier. It’s all-too tempting to be distracted, to feel lazy or allow mental tiredness to impact your working day. You may long to pull the duvet cover over your head and go back to sleep, but your clients need their work completed on time. Deadlines must be adhered to and if you have given your word that an article will be delivered at a certain time, then you must follow through or at the very least, have a good reason as to why that is not the case.

Thinking of becoming a freelance writer? Start preparing your business plan now and start your business the right way.  

The Writing Life

 

Life as a writer

by Annette Young

Someone asked me the other day why I write. It’s not a simple answer, it’s complex because it is such an integral part of me. When I tried to explain that I couldn’t halt the sway of characters or ideas that popped into my mind, that I lived and breathed my role as a writer because not only was it my career but I truly loved it and needed it, I could see them mentally calculating my sanity, or, at the very least, wondering how I was able to function in the real world.

But this is both the joy and the plight of the writer.

We are firmly contained within our own thought processes and life outside of our creative imaginings is often not as vibrantly rich or as fulfilling. I’m often guilty of switching off and slipping into my own make-believe zone as a potential whopper of an idea comes to mind. I often return to the present wide-eyed, wondering what I have missed. 

Not everyone can understand what it means to be a writer. Certainly, some people may not be supportive of your creative drive. This is because it is an alien occupation to many. It’s isolating and, time-consuming. You need to slip into the story-line, see it and feel it and become a watcher on the side lines of your own story. For family and friends, your writing passion may be just an annoyance, it takes you away from the family unit, it means you don’t listen to them or notice when those little jobs need doing. Often there’s a disbelief that it is possible to support yourself or to make a living through the written word. But whether you are as yet unpublished or, have started to carve out your niche as a writer, it’s more about the enjoyment of writing and of being able to satisfy those creative urges.

I think this….write because you need to, write because it feels good and write because you cannot imagine ever doing anything else.