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My Novel Writing Book Basket

7 May

photo A.1

This is my novel writing ‘book-basket’ and it travels with me everywhere I go. I have been lugging it about from house to house, desk to desk and room to room for over six months, carrying about the books I refer to on an almost daily basis as I go about my fiction writing. There are plenty more books in my ever-growing home library, from which I select a new fiction novel to read and it then goes in the ‘book basket’ with the other reference books. The spotty folders at the back of the basket are my printed out manuscript drafts (one & two), as I like to have these with me at all times too.

So here is the list of books I carry about in my novel writing ‘book-basket’.

1. The Art of Dramatic Writing – Lajos Egri

2. Reading Like a Writer – Francine Prose

3. Story – Robert McKee

4. How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One  – Stanley Fish

5. The Elements of Style – Struck & White

6. Copywriters’ Compendium – J. Jonathan Gaby

7. The Law of Success – Napoleon Hill

8. Dictionary of Psychology – Penguin Reference

9.  On Writing – Stephen King

10. Atonement – Ian McEwan

There are other writing reference books I should also have as a writer, such as Artful Sentences by Virginia Tufte – however the above list is the books I have ended up with.  The two books the helped most when I was trying to figure out what I was writing about were Story by Robert McKee and The Art of Dramatic Writing by Egri. McKee’s principle of the ‘controlling idea’ and Egri’s dealing of the principle of  ‘unity of opposites’  really helped me to clarify the themes and conflicts I was writing about and how best to make them work on paper. I flick into these two books more than once a day and always find something new to help me along.

For now, I am still editing my second draft manuscript with the help of all the above, so lets hope I can translate what I read and learn onto my own writing paper.

NMG.C

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Dominating Thoughts and Achieving

12 Mar

law-of-attraction

 

Two weeks ago, a forceful crisis of confidence took hold and set me back about six weeks in terms of my writing. I spent a sorry week restructuring my story, reworking my scenes, changing the plot direction and the fundamental motivations of my characters. As I worked frantically to resolve the issues that arose in my manuscript, I began to seriously doubt that my story had any other value beyond being a story that I felt compelled to write and that I wanted to read as a reader. Failure seeped into my thoughts and I became so anxious at the thought that perhaps I had dedicated so much of my time and efforts over the past year to something that may turn out to be an unworkable disaster.

When the fear peaked to this advanced state of realization that I may have wasted so much time on something so speculative, I clung tightly to a quote by Napoleon Hill – ”You are but the sum of your dominating or most prominent thoughts.”  It’s a pretty famous quote from his book ‘The Law of Success in Sixteen Lessons’ published in 1928. The theory is similar to the law of attraction and positive thinking, but no quote on this topic has held more resonance for me than Napoleon Hill’s.

Every morning when I got up – daunted by the writing task at hand for the day – I repeated this quote over and over in my mind. If I allowed myself to dwell on the fear that my manuscript to date was so flawed that it was beyond saving, I would descend into panic and desolation. I had to be convinced that my manuscript was save-able, even as the further I went into the editing, the worse the structural problems seemed to get.  The knock-on effect resulting from the alteration of a simple piece of dialogue or the tweaking of one action or response almost toppled me into the sea of self-doubt.

I developed two personalities over these two weeks. One personality kept telling me that I would complete my novel, that it would all work out in the end, that I was right to dedicate serious time and effort into the project and that it would not all be the biggest mistake I ever made. The other personality told me I would regret wasting the past fourteen months, that I had wrongly steered myself into a perilous financial situation because of my commitment to the project and that I was naive to think I could call myself an aspiring novelist, never mind that anyone might read what I wrote.

Napoleon Hill kept me going, solidified a steely determination within me so as not to allow the negative thoughts dominate my thinking. I completed all the restructuring and I’m now well on my way to completing a much better story all round (for now anyway), streets ahead of where it was five weeks ago. Strangely, something innocuous also happened around the same time to assure me I kept focused on the positive thoughts. I developed an irrational fear that I was going to wake up one morning to find a spider on my pillow as I lay in bed. And you guessed it, three weeks later I woke up to find a spider on my pillow, a bit unsure as to why he was there.

I’m sticking with Napoleon.

NMG.C

Main Image via here

The Idiosyncrasies of a Writer’s Routine

21 Jan

Writers Routine

When I began writing full-time, just over a year ago, my writing routine was simple. I wrote – non-stop, all day every day – sometimes for twelve or fourteen hours straight. For four months the all-consuming story inside me pushed all other tasks and thoughts into a ‘rain check’ file at the back of my mind. I couldn’t think of anything else because my story wouldn’t allow me to – it was determined to force itself out from my conscience and down through the tips of my fingers on to blank sheets of paper.

But you can’t write like that forever.  A year on, although my writing routine is less compressed, I still haven’t found the best workable routine for writing and life. Before I start to write, it takes me about 3 hours of faffing about before I can clear my head and focus properly. My daily life task list must be completed – if I know I have to break for something at 4 pm, I am distracted by that fact until then. I absolutely have to be alone – no distractions, no company, zero noise. And once I start writing, I find it very hard to stop if I’m on a roll.

In a nutshell, it takes me hours to focus and then I find it very difficult to switch off. I often find myself writing furiously at 3 am or even later – developing thoughts and ideas that are swirling around the ether of my writing room. I’m unwilling to step away in case I lose where I’m going, or waste a positive creative flow and squander all the good vibrations. I’m so exhausted by the time I get to bed that my head is foggy in the morning and my new day starts later, and my writing even later. Before long, my days are backwards as I am living and writing solely at night-time – at odds with the rest of society.

I seem to be at the mercy of my idiosyncrasies and the fact that my creativity regularly waxes into something worth writing about in the dead of darkness as the whole world sleeps.

So what is the most functional writer’s routine?  I’ve read that a lot of writer’s work on a ‘day job’ schedule – but how do they stop the flow of words at a certain time of day?  If I’m trying to stick to a sustainable writing routine, how do I control and contain my idiosyncrasies and the timing of those flashing streaks of creative inspiration that often take me into the dead of the night?

What’s the secret?

NMG.C

Image from Life Archives via Feb by Birds

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