On the writer’s block – Author Toolbox Blog Hop

Happy New Year! It’s been a few months since the last Author Toolbox Blog Hop, what with NaNoWriMo and the festive break, but we’re back with the first hop of 2019. (I’m a little late as I’ve been away for a couple of days!)

Author Toolbox Blog Hop

Whether you’ve been writing for years, or you’re new to the craft, you’ll almost certainly have heard of writer’s block. You’ve probably even suffered from it, to some extent. And if not, then you most likely will at some point in your writing career. (Sorry!)

Laini Taylor, author of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, and the Strange the Dreamer duology, just posted a great thread on Twitter about one dangerous misconception about writer’s block. Click below to read the full thread.

In the thread, Laini opens up about how challenging she finds the writing process, and how rarely the words just flow out of her without resistance. So, if you’re battling writer’s block or find writing really hard work, even though you love it, you’re not alone. Even the greats like Laini Taylor (I mean, have you read Strange the Dreamer? Perfection.) hit a wall with their writing at times.

Writer’s block can manifest in a number of ways: you might struggle to find the right words, or it might feel more like performance anxiety – the fear of not being good enough may stop you before you’ve even started. It can hit you at any time in your writing career, whether you’re sending your first draft off to beta readers – finger hovering over Send, paralysed with fear – or you’re publishing your twentieth novel and worry it won’t be as well received as your previous works.

The important thing to remember is that it will pass. You will write again, you’ll find the words, become inspired and have moments of flow. But only if you KEEP WRITING! Push through the blockage, persevere and write even when it’s slow and painstaking. Even if you cut half (or more) of what you wrote while blocked during editing, it’s a necessary process that will help you break through the blockage, and ultimately become a better writer.

We won’t always feel inspired, sometimes writing will feel like pulling teeth, but the key is to keep at it, keep working on your story. Writing, like any job,
is hard work, and whether it’s your career, your side hustle, your passion or your hobby it won’t always be easy and fun. You’ll stumble sometimes, hit a wall and struggle to climb over it, but the only way you’ll finish your novel, type those two little all-important words, and ultimately publish your book, is if you don’t give up.

Laini shared a book on her Instagram called Around the Writer’s Block: Using brain science to solve writer’s resistance, which discusses all the various obstacles writers may face that could cause us to struggle with our writing. It focuses on the scientific reasons for writer’s block, and habit-building to help us make it a thing of the past. It worked for Laini, maybe it will work for you?

One of the methods that lots of writers champion is free writing, opening your notebook and filling a page or two each day with whatever comes to mind. You can use a prompt if it helps you to get the pen moving, but there’s absolutely no pressure for the words you write to turn into a story, or ever even be seen by another human being. You don’t even have to read it back yourself if you don’t want to!

Whatever you find helps you to break through the block, just remember you’re not alone, there are probably a thousand other writers going through the exact same thing at the same time. Why not reach out to the writing community online for some friendly encouragement? Twitter and Instagram are great places to start, just use the hashtag #amwriting and you’re sure to get a fair few responses from your fellow wordsmiths! And don’t forget to share your tips for what helps you when you’re blocked, we all need a little advice sometimes so add your voice to the conversation, you never know who you might help.

Lyndsey

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Beautiful Books 2017

It’s October, and that means NaNoWriMo is almost upon us! It also means Beautiful People, the monthly meme hosted by Cait @ Paper Fury and Sky @ Further Up and Further In, becomes Beautiful Books, where we talk about our current projects or what we’re planning to write during November.

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What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

COCKLE SHELLS & SILVER BELLS is a YA contemporary fantasy inspired by The Secret Garden, with supernatural themes, LGBTQIA+ characters and a remote seaside setting on the North Yorkshire coast. It’s a combination of a few ideas I had scribbled in my notebook, some for a YA contemporary about a girl who moves to a quiet seaside town and falls for the girl who works at the local ice cream parlour, and some for a modern Bloody Mary story. I started piecing it together about six months ago when I thought I was finished with my other MS, THE FAIR QUEEN, and was outlining for Camp Nano in July.

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Describe what your novel is about!

My MC is an orphan who, on turning 18, inherits her family estate on the North Yorkshire coast. There, she comes across the charming but mysterious housekeeper and groundskeeper, a petite, mermaid-haired firecracker called Dillon, a sassy cat with a bizarre habit of turning up at opportune moments, and a friendly ghost with the key to her family’s secrets.

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What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!

I’m hoping to combine the atmospheric moodiness of classic novels by the Bronte sisters, like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, and whimsical fantasy elements of books by Maggie Stiefvater. I was initially hoping to venture into YA contemporary, but my fantasy heart wouldn’t allow it, so I had to throw in a few magical bits and bobs!

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Introduce us to each of your characters!

Marie ‘Em’ Haigh – Em is 18 and an orphan, she grew up in Provence, France until the age of 10 when her parents were killed in a car accident and she moved to North Yorkshire to live with her great uncle Archie on his farm. She’s pretty isolated and self-reliant, having been home schooled on the farm. She writes gender bent Pride and Prejudice fan fiction on Tumblr and her friends are all either online or fictional. Until she meets Dillon…

Dillon Thackeray – Dillon is a petite, curvaceous lesbian with pastel coloured mermaid hair and an array of neon running gear. She works at the ice cream parlour during the holidays, and goes to university a couple of hours away during term time. She’s a confident and outspoken girl with big dreams and an even bigger heart.

Clemence – Em names Clemence ironically (it means mild and merciful). This cat couldn’t be any saltier, but ultimately she helps Em find some pretty crucial information and leads her to various important items throughout the story. She’s sort of like Em’s spirit guide, but with added sass. Plus I just really like the name Clemence, like Clemence Poesy.

Billy and Maggie Partridge – the Haigh family’s resident housekeeper and groundskeeper. They come with the house, but there might be something more to them…

Ghost boy – I haven’t decided on a name for my spook yet, but he represents Colin, the boy with vitamin D deficiency in The Secret Garden. I haven’t fully outlined his role in the story, but I’m thinking something along the lines of a twin brother to Em’s father who died in childhood and was never spoken of again because it was too painful for the family… Any suggestions on this front would be gratefully received!

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How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)

I’m a proud plotter, so I have a document full of notes, character bios, summaries of the chapters/acts etc. I do quite a bit of research before I start drafting, I choose names that mean something, either by googling baby name meanings until I find what I’m looking for, or naming characters after famous/fictional people who they share something in common with. Then, especially for Nano so I can keep track of where I am up to, I create a spreadsheet with thirty or more scenes or important events that I need for the story. I find that outlining quite rigorously helps me to keep writing even when I don’t feel motivated, and if I want to skip ahead to a juicier scene when I’m not in the mood, I can come back to where I was later.

Also, lots of tea or coffee and snacks, and breaks to walk the dogs and give me a chance to think through plot holes! Getting some fresh air and walking in nature does wonders for writer’s block.

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What are you most looking forward to about this novel?

All the spooky scenes where the ghost is messing with Em, before she actually discovers him. I’m hoping to give it a real Woman in Black vibe up until the point she meets the ghost and realises he’s just a young boy with no intention of hurting her, and he didn’t mean to scare her, he’s just been alone for so long. You’re really going to feel for this ghost, guys!

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List 3 things about your novel’s setting.

A beautiful, imposing manor house on a cliff’s edge, overlooking the North Sea.

A cutesy, vintage ice cream parlour full of cold treats and warm hearts.

A secret beach filled with cockle shells that feels like the edge of the world, but is actually where Em’s life really starts…

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What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?

Em is looking for two pretty conflicting things at the beginning of the book. She wants independence and to stand on her own two feet, she feels like she’s got a lot to prove after her parents’ deaths when she was just a little girl. She wants to make them, and her uncle Archie, proud. But she also wants to learn as much as she can about her family and feel closer to them, hence why she decides to move into Haigh Manor, leaving the farm. Unfortunately, most of her family are dead, and Archie is a pretty reticent old man with secrets of his own (he’s Em’s grandmother’s brother). Plus, Em’s social skills aren’t exactly up to scratch, she struggles with social anxiety and moving from one remote house to another does nothing to change that.

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How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

She opens up a lot, thanks to Dillon, and learns to accept her quirks for what they are. She finds a new passion, makes some great friends, and discovers more about her family history than she could ever have imagined. At the end, she’s a more mature, confident and content person. Plus she might fall in love…

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What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?

The overall theme is hopefully going to be self-acceptance, Em is going to go through a pretty huge journey of self-discovery and growth that should give readers the feeling that she’s found herself in some ways. There’ll still be a way to go before she’s completely happy and comfortable in her own skin, but by the end of the book it should be clear that she’s headed in the right direction.

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That was so much fun! I hadn’t thought this much about CS&SB in months, and digging deep into the story and my characters has really given me a boost for Nano next month. I’m looking forward to reading more about all your WIPs, let me know in the comments if you’re taking part in Nano, and add me as a buddy, my username is lyndleloo!

Lyndsey

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Beautiful Books 2017 Lyndsey's Book Blog

 

My writing progress

After almost a year of thinking, planning, plotting, outlining, drafting, editing, revising and a whole lot of procrastinating, I finally finished my first novel.

In case you were wondering, those pterodactyl screams are coming from me.

Writing progress Lyndsey's Book Blog

I wrote the first draft of The Fair Queen between September and January, I rewrote it between February and May, and I completed my final edits a few days ago and sent my MS out to a handful of beta readers to read and give me feedback.

Excuse me while I curl up in a ball of utter dread waiting for my beta readers to finish reading and tell me how terrible it is.

I’m exaggerating. I hope. One of my betas has been sending me regular messages about how much she loves it and hopes I’m already working on a sequel (I’m not, just in case editors and publishers alter it beyond recognition and the sequel in my mind doesn’t match anymore, but the ideas are there!).

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For those of you who are new around here, I took part in my first ever NaNoWriMo in November last year. If you’re REALLY new around here, Nano is a month long writing camp where writers from all over the world get together online and sometimes in person (your local chapter will have meet-ups but you don’t have to go), and try to write 50k words in 30 days. I discovered it on Twitter at just the right time, by October I’d written about 15k words, so I worked on my outline, created a list of 30 scenes I needed to draft for my WIP, and joined in.

I managed a solid 35k words in November, which I am really proud of, it’s the most I’ve ever written and even though I didn’t “win” I felt so much satisfaction and motivation to finish my first draft, which I did in early January, with around 70k words total.

I took a couple of weeks off to refresh and recharge my mental batteries, before getting stuck into draft two in February. Then I discovered Camp Nano, a branch of NaNoWriMo that takes part in April and allows you to choose your own targets, but gives the same sense of community and support as the November version.

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I set my target at 35k words for April, thinking I’d managed as much in Nov and this was just rewriting and editing. Well, do not underestimate the work it takes to turn a first draft into a neat and structured manuscript! I also had a week’s holiday in Turkey booked during April so I basically had to rewrite 35k words in 21 days. I managed about 32k words, which I was really pleased with, although I would have loved to win this time.

I spent May finishing my second draft, and completely rewriting the ending as I had realised it wouldn’t work the way I’d originally planned it. I was going to leave the book on a huge cliffhanger, with the intention of writing a sequel, but I found out that debut authors should always tie up their endings as they may not get a sequel if the first book isn’t a huge hit. So, the cliffhanger had to go, and I pretty much pantsed my way to an ending I’m happy with – one that ties up the story line of the book and brings the characters full circle, but still leaves a couple of questions and plot lines open for a follow up, without being too frustrating for readers (I hope!).

After I finished draft two I immediately started my third and final read through, formatting the MS and correcting any spelling mistakes I spotted, amending a few word choices, and probably delaying the next step to some extent. Then I sent it out to my beta readers. And that is where we currently are. Waiting for feedback. Watching the clock and biting my fingernails. I’ll let you know what they thought of it!

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Almost as soon as my MS was winging its way to betas, I saw an email ping into my inbox about Camp Nano July. I really find NaNoWriMo to be the most motivating and inspiring experience, I wouldn’t be where I am today, with a completed MS and a real sense of achievement, if I hadn’t come across Nano. So of course I’m going to take part in July!

I decided, instead of hoping my betas all have their feedback in by then so I could do a final round of edits before querying agents, I’m going to start working on a new novel idea. It’ll help me to get some distance from The Fair Queen before that final round of editing, hopefully making me more objective to any faults and flaws in the book. And if TFQ doesn’t sell and get me my first book deal, I’ll need something else to work on and submit! So, as of July, I’ll be working on a sort of modern retelling of The Secret Garden in YA fantasy style.

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So, that’s what I’ve been up to in my writing life, I’m feeling pretty proud of myself right now for finishing what I started, and I actually really enjoyed reading my novel back through to check for spelling errors etc. I really hope my beta readers enjoy it too, but more than that I hope they give me honest feedback about the plot and characters and pacing and whatever else they have thoughts and feelings on. I definitely need a fresh pair of eyes to tell me what’s working and what isn’t, so I can make this MS the best it can possibly be before submitting it to agents.

What have you been working on lately? Will you be taking part in Camp Nano next month? Tell me all about your current WIPs and story ideas in the comments.

 

Lyndsey

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My writing progress Lyndsey's Book Blog