Editing Work

Annette Young

One of the good things about having a blog is that you get to rant occasionally and vent your frustrations and one of my all-time writing hates is when writers submit sub-standard work to publishers. Frankly I don’t understand it.

 Editing work is an essential part of the writing process and it reeks of unprofessionalism if the writer does not make that extra effort to polish their work. It certainly doesn’t bode well if the writer does not have the ability to see a project through to completion and most publishers would reject work received that is inundated with errors.

 We all make the odd mistake when editing work, especially if we have been immersed in a writing project that is long and intense and have read and re-read every word over and over again. No wonder the odd spelling mistake sneaks through our careful checks but mistakes should be few and far between and not littered throughout each paragraph blazing a trail of carelessness for all to see.

As a writer, I try to edit carefully but I’m only human and I have spotted an odd mistake after sending work out (imagine the mental berating) and the reason it happens is because we have read our work to death and the brain, following this repetitive process, knows just what word we were supposed to have written and chooses to see that word and not the one that we actually typed. The mind can certainly play tricks and one tip to avoid this scenario would be to read your work aloud as this will highlight obvious errors. Imagine you have an audience and are projecting your words for maximum impact; this can often bring silly errors to light. Alternatively, if someone else is available, ask them to check it for you.

As a writing coach, I know that I will often read first draft work with many barely concealed mistakes and although the errors scream at me, I don’t expect it to be flawless as the writer is focussing on learning new techniques and the polishing takes place later but as a publisher, I get fed up when final drafts are sent to me and these are still riddled with errors. It does seem as if sometimes apparently professional writers expect me to polish and edit their work for them. The same goes for competition entries, I can understand writers wanting their work to stand out but sending crumpled, poorly checked submissions only stands out in a negative way.

Whilst there are many writers who will spend a great time editing work and who care about their submission, there are sadly those who won’t commit to the full process of writing and take time and care over their ‘baby’ before sending it out in to the world, so if this is you, take a moment to rethink your processes and reasoning, do you really want to be a professional writer? If the answer is yes, then editing work is vital and calls for a commitment from start to finish.

Rant over.

 Annette Young

www.annette-young.com

Creating Characters

One of the most important aspects of fiction has to be creating believable characters. It is also, I believe, one of the most difficult aspects of writing for many writers. We can all learn the correct techniques and formulas of fiction writing but creating characters that almost live and breathe require more than just following certain techniques, it requires an intuitive belief in those characters that we can visualise in our minds eye.

Many writers believe that character development starts on the page, I believe that it starts long before and those characters of the future may even be buried deep within our subconscious minds as we instinctively begin the process of their creation.

As writers, we owe it to ourselves to produce our best work always, and we should always strive to master our skills even if that means working harder on those areas where we are not quite as adept.

Consider for a moment how much better our writing will be perceived if those characters can reach out to the reader, draw them into the plot and make them care about the outcome.

Many years ago, I struggled to control one of my own characters who was pulling in a completely different direction to where I wanted him to go. My plot had been painstakingly defined and whatever I did, I could not seem to get this character to perform as he was supposed to.

Unsure of what to do and in frustration, I wrote him out of the story.

I then spent hours feeling emotional and actually found myself (to my horror) feeling remorse, guilt and a real sense of loss. Most importantly, I realised that my story was not going to be as good without him, it had lost its focus and was certainly less dynamic.  My character was larger than life and there was an intensity about him that was compelling. 

When I realised my mistake, I deleted the latter pages and he was instantly back in the centre of the plot, a strong, slightly irritating, infuriatingly demanding character who was an integral part of the whole story.

I then adapted my plot around him and realised that this made my story so much more believeable because I had been trying to make him act out of character previously. In doing so, I  learned to become much more flexible realising that when characters start to lead, as writers we have achieved something special.

If you find creating and developing characters a difficult process, then why not sign up for the writers e-course ‘Create Living, Breathing, Characters? It really can help and is designed for those busy writers who need quick and easy projects to focus on.

Don’t forget to sign up to the news feed on this page as I will then be able to send any updates directly to you. Also, feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think about the act of creating characters.

Until next time, enjoy creating new fictional life.

Annette Young

Time to Write

Why Fast Fiction Projects Work

We have all moaned about having so little time and in this modern, fast-paced society we live in today, I guess that it could be true. However, there are too many demands on our time which do not fulfil us in the creative sense, so it is important that we do not let the pleasure of our writing time pass us by.

Fast fiction works well because it takes so little time to do. Yes you really can write something whilst waiting for the bath to run ( only don’t forget that it’s running) or whilst waiting for the iron to heat up. Only got fifteen minutes to spare? That’s plenty of time to put pen to paper. Challenge yourself. It’s also a fun way to pass a little bit of time.

Think of the times when you are having to wait for somebody. Perhaps you are in the dentist waiting room or sat in the car waiting to pick up the children out of school? Waiting is boring, use that free time to your advantage and you will be amazed at the writing achievements that lie ahead.

In my free book Quick and Easy Creative Writing Projects, I show you how to maximise your free time with inspirational and creative tasks, best of all, it gets you writing regularly. To pick up a copy of the e-book, simply sign up for the free writers newsletter at www.creative-competitor.com

Find a Writing Buddy

If I said that writing can be a lonely occupation, I doubt there would be few who would disagree with me, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

We all tend to think of a writer as someone who is locked away in a study for long periods of time, typing away feverishly and only emerging for sustenance and perhaps rare social events.

 

Whilst some writers do live a more introverted lifestyle this is only because it suits them to do so and so if we wish to live a normal and sociable life then we should make every effort to do so, because the benefits can actually be great. Interaction with others can often spark off great ideas that may have lain dormant within our subconscious minds, if ever to emerge at all. Writers need fuel to burn that creative stove, the more fuel we give it, the greater our output essentially and this is why finding a writing buddy can be a wonderful thing and can deepen and intensify the need to write.

 

 Motivation can be made easier, words of encouragement are there endlessly, ideas generated and passed from one to another and of course there is that much needed feedback and reassurance from time to time. Take care when choosing your writing buddy though as it must be someone who you are instinctively in tune with. Connecting with the wrong person can have the opposite effect on creative output and just increase stress levels substantially.

Writer’s Block

Why it happens and how to overcome it…….

I am always being asked what writer’s block is, why it occurs and how to overcome it quickly and easily and those new to writing appear to become especially concerned about suffering with this creative affliction. Quite simply, although it can be caused by any number of reasons, the negative aspects are that it can substantially halt any creative output because the words do not wish to flow.

The first thing to be aware of is that writer’s block is simply an annoying aspect of the creative process and that it affects writers with varying degrees of experience. The main thing is not to panic and let it become a bigger issue than it is.

Realistically, it is usually no more than a temporary problem and understanding this and accepting that it has happened  is usually enough to prevent it from becoming a real issue. Times when I have experienced it personally have been when I have not planned my writing schedule enough so that my mind was unfocussed or when I have been experiencing a large amount of stress and emotional problems.

These deeper rooted issues affect us on many levels anyway, not just the creative ones, but because writing can be therapeutic it is even more frustrating that the words do not want to form. Writer’s block caused by emotional problems is without doubt harder to overcome but the same rules can still apply, the more angry and frustrated we become, the tighter the grip on our creative muse . Accepting it, relaxing and trying not to worry about it is usually best and remember that it will usually improve when any ongoing pressure is lifted.

Transitional writer’s block can be helped by adopting the following:

  • Write anything even if it is just a complete jumble of words, the simple act of writing will help force through the block and free up the mind.
  • Try timed writing – five minutes of furious writing can eradicate block and because it is only for five minutes, it lifts the pressure of having to struggle through hours of minimal creative activity.
  • Change the project you are working on and start something new.
  • Need any research doing? Then do that first and ease the pressure from yourself. Discovering new information to help with any writing project can fire up the enthusiasm again.
  • Do some quick writing projects (Quick and Easy Writing Projects or Challenging Creative Writing Projects e-books for example).
  • Write up a schedule for the following day. Focusing the brain is an important weapon in alleviating writer’s block.

These are just a sample of tips to help you overcome writer’s block quickly and easily. I have devised them and used them for myself and they really do work. I also teach my writing students to do the same.

Writer’s block seems to be an integral part of the writing process and as annoying and frustrating as it is, consider it a temporary intrusion into your writing progress.

Procrastination – the Harbinger of Creative Destruction!

It’s true – procrastination destroys the opportunities for writing success!

From amateur to professional, procrastination delays and prevents writers from…well…writing!

Ok, it is fair to say that we are creative beings and that for many of us, the sheer joy of writing is aided and abetted by that creative muse striking and a need to capture words to paper, the problem is that when we find those precious free moments, it is often procrastination and not creativity that strikes.

One of the most important things that I have discovered since writing seriously for a living is that having an agenda for the day is paramount as it helps to focus the mind and sharpen the wit. I believe that writing productively means giving ourselves as many opportunities as possible in the act of writing and having a detailed plan helps us to achieve our goals more readily. Procrastination has less of a fighting chance when we are organised.

Being organised and not having enough time to think are two different things and an efficient writer uses every opportunity to conjure up ideas whilst carrying out the mundane chores that plague us each and every day. From my perspective, thinking about my writing projects whilst wielding an iron through the mountain of clean and wrinkled clothing, makes an unbearable task……bearable, plus I get the added benefit of having spent a pleasurable amount of time investing in my writing.

Stop procrastination in its tracks by writing a simple list of jobs that needs to be achieved the following day. This simple process helps to identify the important areas and also details the ‘nice to haves’ if there is time plus, it helps set the brain in a more organised manner and therefore will be quicker to tackle those all important writing projects that you have set yourself.

My simple message here is to not allow yourself to indulge in procrastination, be efficient, be focussed and be successful instead!

Annette Young
www.annette-young.com

Break Through the Frustration Barrier

Sometimes writing can be pure pleasure, watching how a story unfolds and develops especially when the words flow onto the page in a seemingly effortless manner.
Unfortunately, all writers also have to experience the downside to being a creative person, when the words seem to dry up and tie your brain in knots…
 
I was feeling that way this morning. I wanted to write – actually I needed to write. But my brain just stopped in its tracks and refused to budge. This is what I call the frustration barrier when the words are there but they cannot get through. In the early days of my writing career, I thought it was just me who suffered from these creative mental blocks but as I progressed and got to know other writers, I realised that this is a natural (although annoying) part of the writing process.
 
Now that I teach creative writing at workshops or in college, I’m only too aware that other people feel that way too. There can be a number of reasons for it as well….a hard day at work, emotional problems, too much on your mind or it could be as simple as feeling lethargic due to a beautiful summers day. The difference between amateur and professional writers however, is that they know they have to work through it and whilst it’s not easy to continue writing when your head feels like it is full of cotton wool, it is possible.
 
For example, this morning I wanted to write an article but I couldn’t think of a unique angle and the more I sat and thought about it, the more the barriers came down. So instead, I choose to write this blog because it required a different type of creativity and because I have changed creative direction, the words started to flow again.
 
So if it happens to you – it’s not so much about breaking down the barriers perhaps but as finding a way to wriggle around them.

Find That Fictional Voice

Much of my work these days is spent writing non-fiction- such as e-books and articles etc….however my writing life started as a writer of fiction and I remain hooked still on the realms of fictional creation and pure bliss for me is losing myself in the pages of a good novel.

When I first started writing, I tried every genre possible, and became fascinated by how the great writers made their stories flow so well and seemed to invite the reader in to follow every twist and turn. I tried to emulate some of the great writers and found a fatal flaw in this action, I realised that I was spending more time trying to be someone else and hadn’t started to develop my own writing voice and this is an essential part of becoming a successful writer.

Lesson learned, I started to write in my own style and even though, I still received rejection slips for my many efforts (like any self-respecting and serious writer) I learned to pick myself up from my disappointed heap and glue myself back in front of the computer again. I figured by the law of averages, I was going to strike it lucky at some point.

Finding my own style was essential and I would encourage any struggling writer to do the same. If like me, you love creating new realms of possibilites and enjoy painting a picture with words, then let your personality and style develop naturally.

Of course it is good to read as much as possible and to try to write in genres that appeal however, learn to write as you so that the world can discover a fresh new talent.

Once I had my first work published, more publishing achievements followed and it can for you too. It is only a matter of being dedicated to the cause and continuing to absorb new techniques en-route.

Annette Young

Write Through Lazy Days…

We have all had moments when we want to write but for some reason the words won’t emerge and the brain is a bit fuzzy. This can happen through lack of forethought but it can also be because we feel the effects of lethargy. If we have allocated that all important few hours for our creative pursuits, it can become distinctly irritating if words start to fail us and in a lethargic state, it doesn’t take much for us to change our mind about writing and to switch to some less important task.

Writers block may happen less to me nowadays but that doesn’t mean I don’t still have lazy days and these can be the most frustrating of all because the only thing stopping me from writing is me. Starting the day off badly can stall that creative action and if I feel a bit tired, naturally, the last thing my brain wants to do is to be used in an imaginative way.

If a lazy day strikes and you feel yourself making numerous excuses to stop your writing practice……stop right there.There is no real excuse for not making the most of that important writing time and you simply need to stimulate your creativity by focussing on some fun projects. If you are sat at home, there are numerous items around you that can be used to conjure up some interesting story ideas.

Collect an assortment of items that should be able to trigger off a an imaginative response and arrange them in a manner that appeals, then simply sit back and gaze at the items:

Pen and calendar lying on the table

One glove and a red lipstick on an oak desk

A newspaper with a red encircled ad and an empty matchbox

Allowing the mind to gently weave possible storylines around these items, keeping the mind open and the thoughts free-flowing will certainly help. If you can persist gently and just consider these scenario’s without any expectations or pressure but simply a mild curiosity, results will start to occur. Quite simply relaxing the mind will allow the brain to use the items as triggers and some creative gems may emerge

Dreaming Up New Ideas

Constantly creating new ideas or conjuring up whole new environments in which our fictional characters can live and play can be a difficult challenge sometimes but what if we could use our dreams to stimulate creativity or at the very least to inspire us?

We all dream, albeit sometimes we wake up and our dreams are but a hazy memory, but training ourselves to recall dreams before they fade can be done. Sometimes our dreams can be vividly intense and crammed with twists and turns and characters that are larger than life, and those are the dreams that usually feel as if they have been visibly imprinted on our minds. Sometimes they feel so real, that it takes a while for normality to filter through our muddled dream state.

I believe that I am fortunate to have consistently been able to recall those multi-coloured exploits in fairly vivid details and even though may not remember all of the facts, have been able to weave aspects of any remembered dream into my own fictional tales. Our dreams do not have to be relayed in full remember, if necessary, tiny aspects can be used to enhance an existing plot or perhaps introduce a characteristic or a flaw to enhance our main characters and help them stand out in the reader’s mind. Even those dreams that appear in full as if an interactive 3 dimensional film show do not have to be used in their entirely, we can pluck key moments from the scenes with dexterity, recycling specific aspects so that they work for us.

Using our dreams means that we maximise the opportunity to deliver unique fiction all without having to force ourselves to conjure up those ideas manually. They are there for our taking so let’s use them.

Annette Young

Writing Competitions….and the Winner is……

Writing competitions can be great fun and financially rewarding too.

Few writers, who have entered writing competitions, cannot help but become addicted to the thrill of trying to outwit other competitors. The buzz of striving to produce the best piece of writing possible can be quite enthralling and the sheer act of writing and pitting your wits against others is that it has the added benefit of helping the writer to achieve focus on the end goal.

I started seriously entering writing competitions many years ago, and although I didn’t think that I had much chance of winning, was quite surprised and then extremely proud of the fact that my work was short-listed and some submissions also won. This sense of achievement spurred me on in my own writing endeavours and I often wonder whether I would have been so successful now in my freelance career if I hadn’t of entered different competitions and got that first, early taste of success.

Since those humble beginnings, I have judged various writing competitions and then set up my own. I try to stimulate the minds of the writers by providing a variety of themes so that writing remains exciting and not a chore. Favourite competitions include those with a restricted word count because I know how difficult it can be to produce flash fiction in a minimal amount of words, of course the harder a competition can be, the more the seasoned competition writers like to enter, because it pushes the creative boundaries back yet further.

Think about stories that you could conjure up in just 100 words? Difficult isn’t it? Where do you start the story? How do you finish with a twist ending? Or perhaps you would like to enter the first chapter of your novel in a competition? Put that creative entity out there and see what feedback you get.

Competitions – exciting, unpredictable and addictive and next time you fancy a challenge, you now know what to do.

Annette Young