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

 

Beautiful People – Author edition

Welcome to the latest edition of Beautiful People, hosted by the fabulous Sky at Further up and further in and Cait at Paper Fury! Beautiful People is a monthly link up for writers that helps us get into our character’s heads by answering ten different questions about them each month. This month’s questions are a little different, though. In July, we’re zooming in on the author with ten questions about our writing process.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Beautiful People linkup for writers

How do you decide which project to work on?

So far I’ve written one novel and started another, and I keep my plot bunnies saved in OneNote for when I’m finished with the project I’m currently working on. I actually combined a few ideas from my notes to create the second MS, so I guess it was a case of choosing which plot bunny felt the most intriguing and trying to flesh it out by interweaving other ideas. Luckily, several of my plot bunnies could be combined, which made my choice so much easier!

My first novel is fantasy, and the second is a sort of contemporary with elements of magical realism/fantasy. I want to try a few different genres until I really find my niche. I might try horror next!

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How long does it usually take you to finish a project?

As I’ve only written one novel so far, I’ll say about nine months, because that’s how long it’s taken me, but to be honest it isn’t finished yet. I’m submitting it to Pitch Wars in the hopes a mentor will work with me to edit and revise my MS until it’s near perfect, and that will take until November. Even then, an agent or publisher might require more edits. So a long time. But I’m hoping that with each project I’ll get faster and faster at drafting and revising.

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Do you have any routines to put you in the writing mood?

I make a cup of tea, make sure I’m comfortable and have everything I need at arm’s length so I won’t have to get up for a while, and I’m one of the odd people who need background noise so I put something on Netflix. If I’m struggling with a scene or plot point I like to take the dog for a walk and think about it while I get some exercise and appreciate nature. Maybe that’s strange, I need silence to think about my story, and noise to create it.

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What time of day do you write best?

I am such a night owl, I don’t even function early in the morning, and if I’ve had a bad night’s sleep forget it. I love long and quiet weekends to just sit at the laptop for hours on end (with breaks to walk the dog and eat, of course), but generally I don’t get into a groove until late afternoon, early evening, and then I can keep going until the early hours.

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Are there any authors you think you have a similar style to?

I honestly couldn’t say! I’d love to be compared to a famous author, it would be the greatest compliment, but I’m not sure who I think my writing is similar to.

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Why did you start writing, and why do you keep writing?

I’ve always written, whether short stories or poems as a kid, blogs and essays as an adult. Novels have always been one of my favourite things in the world, but I never imagined I could write one until about a year ago. I started to get an idea for a story, and the more I thought about it (while walking the dog, doing the dishes, waiting to fall asleep) the more I knew I needed to write it. I realised I can Google absolutely anything when I need an answer to a question or a tutorial for fixing something, so surely there must be blogs and articles about how to write a novel. I was right, the internet is full of amazing bloggers and writers sharing the craft. So I started to read everything I could, using it to outline and plot my novel, and eventually I stumbled upon the writing community on Twitter, discovered NaNoWriMo, and all the other online competitions for writers.

In a nutshell, I started writing because I got an idea for a story that nagged me every waking minute and wouldn’t go away, and I keep writing because I’ve fallen in love with the craft and found my tribe.

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What’s the hardest thing you’ve written?

It would have to be something about myself, my Uni application personal statement or a job application, because I’m absolutely horrible at selling myself, I’m so shy and anxious. Writing fictional stories is easy in comparison to writing something true and honest about myself.

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Is there a project you want to tackle someday but you don’t feel ready yet?

I’d absolutely love to write a multi book series, but it’s so daunting. The way authors like J.K. Rowling and Sarah J. Maas weave hints and foreshadowing through early books about what will happen much later into the series, it’s an art form and I’m nowhere near skilled enough to plan that far ahead and execute it well at the moment. One day, hopefully! At the moment, I’m thinking one book at a time, as debut authors almost never get multi book series deals, so my MS The Fair Queen is ‘a standalone with series potential’ and I’ve got a few ideas for the sequel(s) up my sleeve.

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What writing goals did you make for 2017 and how are they going?

I only started writing this time last year, so my goals weren’t really conscious or set in stone, but I wanted to complete my first novel, revise it, and start querying by the end of 2017. I’m entering Pitch Wars next week (submission window opens in 3 days!!!) so I’m a good way to achieving my goals, as if I get in I’ll get to work with a mentor for two months and then pitch agents in November. If I don’t get in, I’ll work on my MS for a couple more months anyway and start querying before Christmas.

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Describe your writing process in 3 words or a gif!

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If you’re just starting out as a writer or looking for blogs to help you improve your craft, check out some of my favourite writer/bloggers and their amazing words of wisdom:

If it weren’t for these three awesome ladies I wouldn’t be anywhere near ready to enter Pitch Wars and I’d probably have given up writing after 10k words.

I’m hoping to have more time to post once my Pitch Wars submission has gone, but if I get in I might be a bit AWOL for most of September and October too (plus I’m going to Asia for ten days in September! So excited :-D)

Lyndsey

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