11 Inspiring Quotes from the World’s Best Writers

5 May

The last time we had a guest post from Laura Pepper Wu (11 Signs You’re Meant To Be A Writer), things went a bit nuts, with her post getting nearly 100 comments and being shared nearly 200 and over 400 times on Twitter and Facebook respectively. Today she’s back to share news of her new app, Write On! Daily Kick-Ass Writing Inspiration: 365 Tips & Quotes from the World’s Best Writers, and 11 of her favorite such quotes for those self-doubt-filled, motivation-lacking, no-amount-of-coffee-can-get-this-going bad writing days. Welcome back, Laura!

‘Having a bad writing day? Read (and bookmark!) these 11 quotes.

We all have ‘em once in while – awful, dragging, low writing-motivation days. The last thing you want to do is open up that folder on your computer, the one marked ‘WIP’.

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Sometimes it helps to know you’re not alone (you’re definitely not), and that this too shall pass (especially with a glass of wine or two). For me, it always helps to read words of wisdom from an admirable writer too. Here’s a collection of my favorites taken from the new app Write On! Daily Kick-Ass Writing Inspiration 365 Tips & Quotes from the World’s Best Writers.

1. “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” – Jodi Picoult

Take the pressure off yourself by focusing on simply getting some words onto the page and not worrying whether the result is good or bad. The refining and shaping can come later.

2. “A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor.” – Author Unknown

Know that writing is not meant to be all butterflies and rainbows, and that sometimes the crappy days are what make you a stronger writer!

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A screenshot from Laura’s new app

3. “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” – Richard Bach

Choose to go pro, and know that a big part of that is not allowing yourself to give up.

4. “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” – Ernest Hemingway

If things are really bad, aim to write just one good sentence. Not only is it better than a hundred bad sentences, it might also give you the encouragement to write more.

5. “Asking “Why?” can lead to understanding. Asking “Why not?” can lead to breakthroughs.” – Daniel Pink

If you feel stuck with a chapter, section, or storyline, think about the problem in another way. Turn the question upside down and you might just have the breakthrough you need!

6. “Alternating the thoughtful task of writing with the mindless work of laundry or dish washing will give you the breaks you need for new ideas and insights to occur. If you don’t know what comes next in the story… clean your toilet. Change the bed sheets. For Christ sakes, dust the computer. A better idea will come.” – Chuck Palahniuk

I’ve found this over and over again; doing something mindless (but somewhat productive), allows me to tap into a different part of the brain that comes up with ideas. Now I’m no neuroscientist, so I can’t tell you why, but I do know that this works. Exercise, especially stretching, seems to have the same effect. Try it!

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7. “I find it hard to start writing in the morning; but the dejection lasts only 30 minutes, and once I start I forget all about it. – Virginia Woolf

If you don’t feel like getting started, commit to just 30 minutes (or 15, or even 3), and more than likely you’ll keep going past that mark. The hardest part is often just getting started, but once you’ve started you’ll find that you might as well just keep going!

8. “To feed your muse… you must still take long walks around your city or town, or walks in the country by day. And long walks, at any time, through bookstores and libraries.” – Ray Bradbury

Take a hike! I have my best ideas while walking the dog, and frequently have to hurry home to get them onto paper. There’s something about being out in nature, or being inspired by people and objects around us that can trigger new ideas and motivation. Plus, the act of moving forwards can extend onto the page. When in doubt, take a walk and you’ll get back to your desk refreshed.

9. “It’s no secret that the best place to write, in my opinion, is in a café. You don’t have to make your own coffee, you don’t have to feel like you’re in solitary confinement and if you have writers block, you can get up and walk to the next café while giving your batteries time to recharge and brain time to think.” – J.K. Rowling

Get thee to a cafe! (Catherine will no doubt agree with this suggestion to go get caffeinated…)

10. “Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! – William Faulkner

Feed yourself a diet of books, and you’ll probably see that it helps improve your writing. If the writing isn’t happening, I never feel guilty for opening up a book and reading a chapter or two. After all we’ve got to remember why we’re doing this in the first place!

11. “The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it.”- Jules Renard

Take the pressure off yourself by imagining that you’re simply a conduit, conducting your story from the air and onto the page. Somehow telling myself this takes the pressure off, and I get out of my own way and let the words fall onto the page. Interestingly, the Grammy-award winning artist Pharrell believes that all his work is created this way, and if it’s good enough for him, it’s definitely good enough for me!

Over to you… Have a favorite quote that helps you get through the bad writing days? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear it!’

LauraPW-Headshot-CroppedLaura Pepper Wu is the founder and editor of The Write Life Magazine and 30 Day Books. Write On! is her newest app. Each day you’ll get an inspirational or instructional quote from one of the world’s best writers. It’s available for $0.99 (for a limited time) in the Apple App Store here.

When Story Goes Wrong: My Amber-Induced Rage

30 Apr

Roll up, roll up. It’s rant o’clock!

As you may or may not know, I love TV. Good TV that is. I have no time for people who are happy to stick their nose in a book but only look down their nose at television. I love stories and I love writers, and that’s what’s on and who’s behind TV. Yes, there’s bad TV, but there’s bad books too. If your argument is that TV-watching is too passive an activity, turn on your TV’s captioning service. There. Sorted.

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A few months ago, the final episode of a four-part drama series called Amber aired here on the state broadcaster’s channel RTE, and as our TV screens faded to black we took to Twitter and raged. Then we called into radio shows and raged. When we next saw our friends and family we said, ‘Were you watching Amber?’ and if the answer was yes then we raged some more.

In the first episode four nights before, a teenage girl — Amber — disappeared. She got her father to drop her to a friend’s house, waited until he’d driven away and then scurried off somewhere. We’d all stayed tuned for more than an hour each evening since to follow the investigation and the search, while flashbacks teased us about Amber’s final (?) hours. What happened to Amber? both we and the characters on the show wondered aloud. Where is she? Where did she go? The acting was mostly great, the production was sleek and the opening titles even had a touch of Top of the Lake about them. Many of us had spent numerous Saturday nights glued to subtitled Scandinavian drama on BBC4 (e.g. The Killing and The Bridge) and sat through Christmas impatient for new Sherlock, so it was a treat to have a slick crime drama of our own to watch featuring An Garda Siochana (the Irish police force) and Irish actors.

Or so we thought.

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I can’t write the rest of this without revealing the details of Amber, but since it already aired, most of you don’t live in Ireland and I feel compelled to warn those of you who live in the UK not to waste four nights of your life watching it like we did when it airs on BBC4 later this year, I think we’ll be alright.

But just to be fair:

***CRAPPY TV SHOW SPOILER ALERT***

So why the rage as the screen faded to black? Well, because the last shot was of Amber walking down a country road. Alive. The show ended without the viewer knowing what happened to Amber. Four episodes of a drama series about a girl going missing that in the end revealed… Well, nothing much of anything at all, it turned out.

That was bad enough.

That was annoying.

But what BROUGHT ON THE RED RAGE was the response of the team behind the show to our disappointment over this.

They said,* “It’s like real life, and in real life you don’t always find out what happened to the person who went missing.”

They said, “If you were really paying attention, there were plenty of clues.”

(Implying that you hadn’t paid attention at all and were too stoopid to put it altogether. You dumbarse!)

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And to pour acid into the wound they’d already poured salt into, they said, “She’s just gone and no, no character you met along the way had anything at all to do with it.”

?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

OH HOW MY BLOOD BOILS WITH SUPERFLUOUS CAPITAL LETTERS.

When a reader sits down with a book or a viewer settles onto the sofa, they’re expecting a story. Stories have beginnings, middles and ends and the end of a story is also the resolution of it. This doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is tied up nicely in a bow and every mystery carefully explained away, but it does mean that the reader or viewer is left feeling satisfied. They feel there is a point to the story, a good reason for its existence.

That’s why the whole “but that’s what it’s like in real life” line doesn’t wash, because this wasn’t real life. It was a TV show. And TV shows get resolved.

(And also, if I wanted real life, I would’ve watched a documentary. Or looked out the window.)

I heard they also said that it wasn’t so much about the crime itself, but the effect the crime had on the family, neighborhood, etc. See Broadchurch for an excellent example of this. But what happened at the end of Broadchurch? Oh yeah, WE FOUND OUT WHAT HAPPENED AND WHO DID IT.

But that’s just the manslaughter charge in this crime against story. The murder one is the revelation that no one the viewer was introduced to in the fictional universe was responsible for the murder and/or disappearance of Amber.

Or to put it another way: cheating.

If the writer of a story that involves a crime (or other mystery) decides from the outset that they’re not going to reveal or explain to the reader/viewer what happened by its end, they are doing the writing equivalent of dictating to an assistant as they sunbathe on a beach in Bahamas while the rest of us live in a dark stone cell and scratch our story onto the walls with a pen knife.

By candlelight.

In a draught.

With no reveal/explanation, there are no rules. If there’s no rules, you don’t have to play by them. You don’t have to induce a migraine tying your plot up in knots and drawing graphs and using six different colors of Post-It notes to map out every last twist and turn. You can do whatever you like because it doesn’t all have to make sense at the end. You can fill your story with intense moments of mystery and end every chapter with a crazy cliffhanger and it all doesn’t matter because — woo-hoo! — you’re free to make this crap up as you go along.  You can do whatever you like because you haven’t committed to doing anything in particular except stringing us all along. Let’s throw in a unicorn and a ghostly apparition and a car chase and then – POOF! – deus ex machina, THE END.

I should’ve known that Amber had a plot problem because of the shambles that was Episode 2.

Amber had a non-linear narrative that kept jumping around in time as it followed different people through her disappearance and the subsequent search for her. In episode 1, we were shown Amber coming out of the city centre on the Luas (tram) carrying a shopping bag. Got that? Right. In episode 2, we focused on a very shady character who was already in prison for another crime and, in flashbacks, we saw him looking very suspicious as he sat in a parked car and watched Amber walk by on the day she went missing. But anyone with two brain cells would’ve instantly been able to deduce that Mr Suspicious had nothing to do with Amber’s disappearance, because when she walked past his car she wasn’t carrying a shopping bag. Therefore she hadn’t been into the city yet. And since we knew from Episode 1 that she stayed alive long enough to get back on the tram and come out of the city with her shopping bag, we knew this guy didn’t kill or take her.

(I’m not even going to talk about the episode where Amber’s father SAVED AMERICAN BACKPACKERS FROM HUMAN TRAFFICKERS IN EASTERN EUROPE BY WATCHING PORN AND HAVING A PROSTITUTE OVER FOR DINNER. No, really. That was actually the “plot” of the final episode.)

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If convicted for this first degree murder of what a story is supposed to be, the prosecution should seek the death penalty in this case because while leaving us hanging is bad enough, the creators admitted that (a) they know what happened (um yeah, oh-kay…) and that (b) NO ONE WE MET IN THE SHOW WAS RESPONSIBLE.

(Remembering that they told us the show was filled with clues, had we bothered to pay attention.)

Are you [BLEEP] kidding me with this?

That breaks the cardinal rule of crime and thrillers, and breaking this rule shows such a blatant disrespect for the reader/viewer that I’d need to start taking blood pressure medication if I thought about it too much. It’s just not playing fair if you don’t give the reader/viewer a chance to figure it out for themselves. Now I read crime novels and thrillers all the time, and I never figure it out. I like it that way. (I was once friends with a girl who would start every book by turning to the last chapter to appraise the ending. Only if she liked it would she go back to the start and read the book. We’re not friends anymore. Coincidence?) But when what really happened is revealed, I go ‘Oh, right! I see it now.’ I realize the clues were there all along. Readers who are cleverer than me may go ‘I KNEW it!’, but despite our different reactions we’re both feeling satisfied, we’re both feeling like the time we sunk into the book or show wasn’t wasted.

But if the person who killed/disappeared Amber WASN’T EVEN IN THE BLOODY SHOW, well, we don’t have much of a chance of figuring it out, now do we?

And of course, it also means that no one involved in writing the show had to figure it out either. Again: cheating.

It’s not that stories that aren’t neatly tied up can’t be satisfying. See Tana French’s In The Woods or series 2 of The Bridge for more on this. But they worked because even though not every plot strand was tied up in a bow, something was. And that something made sense. It also involved CHARACTERS WE’D ACTUALLY BEEN INTRODUCED TO.

I was venting my rage on Twitter the night of finale when someone suggested we send the writers a copy of Robert McKee’s Story. I suggested that that might be a bit advanced for them. Perhaps an episode of Murder She Wrote instead?

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You know something? I realize now that this blog post may not have a point. I just really needed to vent about how stoopid that bloody show was. But you know what? Maybe it’s not supposed to have a point, because that’s, like, real life. Things don’t get all neatly tied up in real life, dontcha know.

[UNICORNS DESCEND]

[A T-REX BURSTS OUT OF THE BUSHES]

[THE POWER GOES OUT]

The End.

Now, how was that for you?

Amber is apparently going to air on BBC Four sometime this year and after that it’ll infect Netflix. It’s too late for me but run, save yourselves!

UPDATE: BBC *did* show it and my blog visits have been boosted by people searching for ‘amber crap ending’ and the like. For more Amber rage, see this great piece by Daragh Keany writing for the Sunday World. Now, go watch some GOOD TV. 

What show or book had an ending that gave you the RED RAGE? Why was it so rage-inducing? Did you watch Amber? Do you think we can have some of our TV license fee back from RTE? Let me know in the comments below…

*I’m paraphrasing.

Attention Women Writers: Meet the #WoMentoring Project!

15 Apr

Today I’m honored to help introduce something very exciting, timely and worthwhile: The WoMentoring Project! 

The Wo-what now?

The WoMentoring Project exists to offer free mentoring by professional literary women to up and coming female writers who would otherwise find it difficult to access similar opportunities.

The mission of The WoMentoring Project is simply to introduce successful literary women to other women writers at the beginning of their careers who would benefit from some insight, knowledge and support. The hope is that we’ll see new, talented and diverse female voices emerging as a result of time and guidance received from our mentors.

Each mentor selects their own mentee and it is at their discretion how little or much time they donate. We have no budget, it’s a completely free initiative and every aspect of the project – from the project management to the website design to the PR support – is being volunteered by a collective of female literary professionals. Quite simply this is about exceptional women supporting exceptional women. Welcome to The WoMentoring Project.

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But wo-why?

Like many great (and not so great) ideas The WoMentoring Project came about via a conversation on Twitter. While discussing the current lack of peer mentoring and the prohibitive expense for many of professional mentoring we asked our followers – largely writers, editors and agents – who would be willing to donate a few hours of their time to another woman just starting out. The response was overwhelming – within two hours we had over sixty volunteer mentors.

The WoMentoring Project is managed by novelist Kerry Hudson and all of our mentors are all professional writers, editors or literary agents. Many of us received unofficial or official mentoring ourselves which helped us get ahead and the emphasis is on ‘paying forward’ some of the support we’ve been given.

In an industry where male writers are still reviewed and paid more than their female counterparts in the UK, we wanted to balance the playing field. Likewise, we want to give female voices that would otherwise find it hard to be heard, a greater opportunity of reaching their true potential.

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Sign me up!

In an ideal world we would offer a mentor to every writer who needed and wanted one. Of course this isn’t possible so instead we’ve tried to ensure the application process is accessible while also ensuring that out mentors have enough information with which to make their selection.

Applicant mentees will submit a 1000 word writing sample and a 500 word statement about why they would benefit from free mentoring. All applications will be in application to a specific mentor and mentees can only apply for one mentor at a time.

Why our mentors are getting involved

I have only achieved the success I have with the help of others, and now I am keen to pass on that help. I particularly want to reach out to those who don’t have the privileges of wealth, status or existing contacts, but who have so much to gain and to give.

–Marie Phillips, author Gods Behaving Badly

I’m so pleased to be involved in the WoMentoring Project, and I can’t wait to meet my mentee. I know from my own authors how isolating an experience writing can often be, especially when you’re just starting out, and so I really wanted to be involved. I hope that knowing that there is someone on your side in those early days will give writers courage and confidence in their work.

–Alison Hennessy, Senior Editor at Harvill Secker

I wanted to get involved with this project because I’d like to help authors feel that whoever they are, and wherever they come from, they have a right to be heard.

–Jo Unwin of the Jo Unwin Literary Agency

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Why female writers feel they need this opportunity

The idea of women sharing their skills and experience in a dynamic, nurturing way is a really important one given the lower profile given to female writers. Even though the mentoring is one to one a collective voice and resilience is still being built up – I think it’s a great idea that, for writers like me, will help get rid of some of the layers of doubt and creative loneliness that come with being a beginner.

–Clare Archibald

I’m on my third novel; I’ve had good notices from Faber, HoZ etc. but still not quite there. What I need is that final push. I especially need guidance on pacing, keeping the action pulsing along. I feel a mentor could be hugely beneficial in this process.

–Suzy Norman

So there you have it.

Want to know more? Visit www.womentoringproject.co.uk and follow @WoMentoringP on Twitter, or search for the hashtag #WoMentoring.

Sunday Coffee Reads | Apr 6

6 Apr

Welcome to Sunday Coffee Reads which, if you’re not familiar, is my occasional sharing of the most interesting thoughts and links to things I’ve come across on Twitter and marked as favourites to read later, later being Sunday morning when I’ve the first of many cups of coffee in hand…suncoffeepic

I’ve actually been out of the office (read: away from the desk in my living room) for the past week, as Andrea Summers was here and I took her on a very rainy trip around Ireland. Well, a few bits of it anyway. Highlights were breakfast with a view at the Lake Hotel in Killarney, the absolutely wonderful library at Trinity College, pulling pints (and bonus: drinking them) at the very impressive Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, and introducing Andrea to Downtown Abbey with the help of the newest love of my life: my Google Chromecast. As my cousin Aisling said, you’ll never know how you got nothing done without it. We also ran into a couple of very nice vintage typewriters…

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Anyway, onto this week’s tweets.

I experienced a moment of writing-related disappointment this week, but thanks to (a) a good sleep, (b) good coffee at the end of that sleep and (c) the level-headed advice of writerly friends, it was only a moment. Still, I’m so glad I came upon this blog post by Mark Edwards this week. If you need a pick-me-up, read it. (And gasp at the line about the non-deleted e-mail!)

Until next time…!

Writer/Blogger? You May Need a Contact Page Intervention

26 Mar

It may be news to you but for the last year and a half or so, I’ve been doing some freelance social media work for a publishing house, helping promote other authors’ books online. As my goal is essentially to connect readers with books I believe they’ll like, a lot of my time is spent trawling through the magical interweb looking for book blogs. They’re easy enough to find. But it’s not always easy to find what I need when I get there: a way to contact the blogger in private.

It’s a particularly bad day when the coffee machine is still brewing and the contact page of a book blogger who (a) professes to love the exact kind of book I have to offer her and (b) says on her ‘Review Policy’ or ‘About Me’ page that what she loves more than anything else in the world is getting free books says something like if you want to get in touch, I’m on Twitter @thisconversationwillbepublic…

Oh, how the RED RAGE DESCENDS.

I can’t get in contact with her on Twitter, and I won’t. I don’t want everyone to see me offering her a review copy, and sometimes upcoming releases have things tied to them, like promotional activity, for example, that I can tell the blogger but not the world (yet). You might be saying now well, why don’t I just tweet her asking for her e-mail address? Well first of all my Twitter account is for Catherine Ryan Howard, the self-publisher and blogger. Not the occasional publicity assistant. And Twitter is not interchangeable with e-mail or a contact form. It’s a public forum.

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But if I can’t get in contact with a book blogger, the worst thing that happens is that they miss out on a free book and I have to go looking for someone else to take their place.

But what if you’re a self-publisher and the person trying to get in contact with you is another blogger who wants to help you promote your book, or a journalist who wants to feature you in a newspaper or magazine, or a radio show producer who wants to interview you on air, or an agent who’s interesting in representing you or a publisher who’s interested in buying your print rights or an editor in Poland who wants to talk translation rights (delete as appropriate depending on your life’s goals)? Telling them that they can contact you on Twitter is just not acceptable. Telling them they can send you a message through Facebook is laughable. And who knows what kind of opportunities you might miss out on – small, medium and big – because you put too many hoops between your online home and a way to get in touch with you directly that doesn’t come with an audience.

I think you should do one of the following:

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Sunday Coffee Reads | Mar 23

23 Mar

Welcome to Sunday Coffee Reads which, if you’re not familiar, is my occasional sharing of the most interesting thoughts and links to things I’ve come across on Twitter and marked as favourites to read later, later being Sunday morning when I’ve the first of many cups of coffee in hand…suncoffeepic

So, behold! This week’s tweets:

Also this week, while catching up on Hannibal, Crisis and Resurrection on Hulu, I came across a trailer for a movie called Authors Anonymous. Now of course there’s a risk that they’ve put all the good bits in the trailer, but the scenes they have stuck in there cut real close to the bone.

A writers’ group is all for supporting each other until one of them – the young, beautiful blonde one with breasts – someone manages to get a 6-figure deal for her first attempt, even though she struggles to name a published writer she likes. Meanwhile the eldest of the bunch proudly announces that he’s “inked a deal” with U R The Publisher, but he quickly goes from waving around their pamphlets to complaining that they’ve stuck a picture of a dog on the cover of his novel The Roaring Lion.

It’s out in the US now, apparently, but who knows when it’ll reach European shores. In the meantime, enjoy the trailer:

Until the next Sunday that doesn’t have a F1 grand prix…

The Blog Tour: What, Why and How I Write

17 Mar

This morning I am contributing a stop to The Blog Tour: What, Why and How I Write, this on-going blogging and writing thingy where each blogger answers four questions about their writing, tags three victims and runs away screaming, ‘You’re it!’

Normally I avoid such things because they have a tendency to get out of hand quickly (‘I just nominated for you for this award – now all you need to do is make a list of 53 bloggers you love and get each of them to nominate 87 other bloggers…’ etc. etc.) but Jason Arnopp (a) asked me before he tagged me and (b) keeps me mightily entertained with his tweets, so I felt that on this one – ONE – occasion, I’d take part.

jasonWho is Jason Arnopp, you say? Well follow him on Twitter and you’ll quickly find out. Or read this: Jason Arnopp is a British author and scriptwriter.  He wrote the 2011 Lionsgate US feature film Stormhouse, and BBC audiobooks Doctor Who: The Gemini Contagion and The Sarah Jane Adventures: Deadly Download.  More recently, he has written the terrifying Kindle books Beast In The Basement and A Sincere Warning About The Entity In Your Home.  He lives in Brighton with far too many movies on VHS. You can find him at INT. JASON ARNOPP’S MIND – DAY/NIGHT.

Now, onto the four questions…

1. What am I working on?

Argh, stumped at the first question! (Argh: angry, not pirate. Always feel a need to point that out.) I really don’t like putting stuff on the magical interweb about what I’m currently working on, just because I don’t like talking about what I’m working on in general. I don’t like it because you may have what you think is a great idea that you’re all excited about and you can see how it’s going to pan out and you’re excited to write it and then you tell someone about it and they make THE FACE, and THE FACE implies that this is a ridiculous idea and you’d be better off watching an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians since writing this idea down is obviously such a waste of human time.

Let’s just say that my main project is a novel I hope someone else will publish, and that novel is a thriller, and I’m about a third of the way through a polished draft of it. I also have a very organized plot outline that I spent a joyful afternoon creating with mini Post-It notes and Sharpie pens:

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I also have another, much smaller project and I want to say even less about that’s destined for self-publication.

2. How does my work differ from others in the genre?

Hollywood, so the story goes, is always looking for ‘the same, but different’ and that’s how I feel about genres.

First of all, let me say that I am absolutely writing in a genre. I don’t like it when writers claim that their work doesn’t fit into any genre, or that they don’t recognize genres, or that they have written in a genre but because they don’t read it their book must be unique and special as they are unfamiliar with the perceived formulae that make titles in that genre tick. All that to me sounds very let-me-tilt-back-my-head-so-I-can-look-down-my-nose-at-you. Genre isn’t a dirty word and as I have been reading my genre – crime/thrillers – since I was far too young to be doing so and got stern looks as I tried to check adult books out on my children’s library card, I know what works and what doesn’t. I know the rules, I  know how to get away with breaking them. I know that these days it takes a very twisty road to keep the truth from the reader.

But I also know what’s been done to death (ha!), so I’m avoiding that. I have what I think is a new or at least different idea. I’m also writing first person in my own voice, which I think is quite different to the standard crime/thriller narrator. It also annoys me when I read thrillers that start with something big happening in a prologue, and then we skip ahead months or years to see how everyone’s doing after the fact – I want, for once, to be taking through the Something Big Happening, day by day, in the first part of the book. So I’m trying to do that.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Once upon a time I wrote a novel called Results Not Typical, that as some of you know was chick-lit meets corporate satire, Weight Watchers meets The Devil Wears Prada and self-publishing meets un-self-publishing when I decided that I wanted to keep my self-publishing brand to non-fiction only. This novel also got me a meeting with an editor at a major publishing house, where we discussed how I might take what was working about RNT and use it to write something broader that wasn’t quite so kooky, something that may have more commercial appeal. I thought that since all my books were light-hearted and fun – and maybe, once in a while, even funny – that that something should be women’s commercial fiction. I went away and wrote 10,000 words of a New Idea and we had another meeting. It wasn’t really working, so we brainstormed another idea and then I went home and wrote 10,000 words of that. Then we had another meeting, brainstormed another version of this idea and I went home and wrote a 30,000-word chapter by chapter outline of that.

But then two things happened. First of all, The Editor said something to me that changed everything. She said that while what I was writing was competent and funny and all that, it had no emotional heart – and as soon as she said it, I knew why. I didn’t want to write women’s commercial fiction! I don’t know why I even tried because it’s not my favorite thing to read. (Well, I do know. Because I thought it might get me published.) Of course my heart wasn’t in it.

The second thing was that an idea I’d had for a thriller that had been simmering away in my brain for a while came to the boil, and I thought to myself: once I finish with this chapter outline, I’m going to start writing that – for fun.

Um, what now?

Exsqueeze me?

Why was I writing anything that wasn’t fun?

So I ditched all notions of writing anything other than what I loved to read, and got working on my current project: my crime/thriller novel.

4. How does my writing process work?

I don’t think I’ve written enough books to have an actual process, so let me just briefly tell you about how I wrote a few specific ones.

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Mousetrapped. As it was based on real-life events I had an advantage right from the start: I knew what was going to happen. Hooray! While it was actually happening, I used to keep a diary of sorts in a MS Word document on my computer so I had that to refer to. I wrote a proposal and a couple of sample chapters, based on the best advice I’ve ever come across for writing a non-fiction proposal, which is in a (now out of print?) book called How To Get Published and Make a Lot of Money by Susan Page. (Ignore the name; it has brilliant non-fiction proposal advice.) An agent was interested so then I had to write the book itself, starting by sitting on the floor of my apartment in Orlando, cross-legged before a plastic crate that had my laptop perched on top of it with a no foam venti latte within reach. I wrote the first proper draft at home over the summer of 2008 when I’d returned from backpacking, on a laptop borrowed from my best friend because I’d broken my Dad’s and had abandoned my own antique in Florida to save on luggage. Then I wrote another with the copyeditor I hired when I decided to self-publish it. All in all it was quite straightforward: I just started at the beginning and wrote on through.

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Backpacked. This was hilarious because I left it until the very, very VERY last minute to even start on this book – which again, being non-fiction, was about stuff that had already happened so plot wasn’t an issue – and then wrote it in two caffeine-fuelled weeks.

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The Secret Crime/Thriller. The plot of this is a quite twisty and I just don’t understand when I read writers in interviews say that they write thrillers and they don’t know how it’s going to end until they get there. (I’m looking at you, Harlan Coben.) How would that even be possible? Instead I started with the truth: I started with what I knew had really happened, and then I asked myself how could I frame that, how could I introduce these events to the reader in a way that would throw them right off the scent right from the start? Then, as ever, I turned the white cover of my copy of Save the Cat by Blake Snyder yellow, constantly referring to it for plot architecture, eventually ending up with a plot that had three acts and a mid-point. I started writing, but it took a few 20,000 word treks through the beginning to get that right, and then I started writing a ‘discovery draft’ which would be unreadable to any other human but helped me figure out all the stuff that had to happen in between the bits I’d figured out already. Once that was done I locked down my plot in another outline (Sharpie time!) and started writing A Proper Draft, layering in complication as I went.

As for the logistics, since the beginning of this year I have (mostly) got into the habit of writing every day, aiming for 2,000 new words in a session. I write in the mornings so I can enjoy the rest of my day guilt-free and I’ve bought a coffee machine with a timer that I can pre-set before I go to bed and that, my friends, has made all the difference.

So, that’s that. The three victims—ah, writers, I’ve invited to take part in The Blog Tour next Monday (24th March) are:

5c2ff6ec2b280a22d17a2d.L._V352340503_SX200_Keris Stainton

Keris Stainton is the author of three UKYA novels – Della Says OMG!, Jessie Hearts NYC, Emma Hearts LA – and two NA novellas (under the pen name Esme Taylor). The first book in her Reel Friends series, Starring Kitty, is due out in June. She’s addicted to American TV, Twitter, and tea. She blogs here.

Pat_Photo_OriginalPat Fitzpatrick

Pat Fitzpatrick lives in Cork, Ireland. After 19 years working in the I.T. industry he decided to jump ship in 2008 and head for the lucrative world of writing. So don’t hire him as a life coach, investment advisor or anything to do with your career. His Sunday Independent newspaper columns plus TV and radio appearances have been entertaining Irish people through some tough times. He is now busy writing a series of novels about the weird place that was Ireland in the last 15 years. He blogs at How To Kidnap a Pop Star.

photo-1Jean Grainger

Jean Grainger is author of ‘The Tour’ and ‘So Much Owed’. She is a teacher and a former university lecturer. She lives in Cork, Ireland with her husband and four children. She loves writing historical fiction and correcting homework. (She’s joking about the homework). She blogs at JeanGrainger.com.

Stop by their blogs next week to read their answers. In the meantime:

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