So You Wanna Be A Writer? Where Do You Start?

This post is full of swearing!!

So, you want to write a book, eh? But you haven’t even begun yet because, like, it’s scary and where the fuck do I even start?

Well, you don’t have to start at the beginning, that’s for sure, but you do have to START.

It doesn’t matter how shit it is. You can’t edit a blank page my friends. THAT is the truth.

So, first things first, what do I need to write?

Just a notebook and a pen or pencil and an idea. That’s all.

Simple, eh? Well, maybe not that simple. But we have to start somewhere. You don’t even need a computer in the beginning. A lot of writers I know actually prefer to write their first draft of a novel, or a poem, or a short story in longhand. I do a bit of both depending on how I’m feeling and where I am.

So, number one tip; get yourself a notebook and pen. (Actually, you might need several notebooks. A writer can never have too many notebooks. #FACT)

Okay, so I’ve got my notebook, now what? That is a good question. You don’t have to start out with a grandiose idea. Big Oaks grow from little acorns. If something pops into your head, jot it down. You don’t know where that idea will take you. My Bones, Ashes and Dust trilogy started in this way. Just a single idea. A what if?

What if the Angel of Death sent to collect the soul of a person who’d tried to end their own life, saved them instead?

Also, another good tip (obviously it’s good because it’s my tip :)) is to keep an ideas notebook. Random ideas pop into our heads at random times. Jot them down. You never know when they’ll come in handy.

But, I’ve never written anything before. I didn’t even finish school.

First rule of Writing Club, Fuck the Grammar snobs. This is important because, in life, there will always be people waiting to knock you down. That’s especially true when you’re writing. “Oh but that writing is shocking because you haven’t got an apostrophe there and BLAH, BLAH, BLAH! Fucking yawn! I know Sharon, I’m not a fucking grammar snob like you AND it’s a first draft.

Let me tell you a little secret. I’m shit at naming things. What is a Compound Sentence? What is an adjunct? Fuck if I know, Sharon. Doesn’t mean I can’t write. Telling a story is more than just naming things and getting the grammar right. A story can have perfect grammar but it don’t mean shit if the story is crap.

That’s not to say you can just leave bad grammar in writing. It will need sorting. What I’m saying is, don’t worry about grammar in the beginning. Start writing. Grammar is something you can learn. And if you can’t and still struggle, an Editor is your best friend.

DON’T let the fear of grammar stop you from writing!!!

And, finally, for today’s lesson, Practice. Practice makes perfect. Keep writing. It doesn’t have to be anything long. Your ideas don’t have to make sense and they don’t have to all join up. That’s okay. To write, you need to get into the habit of writing.

So, to recap;

Get a notebook, a pen and an idea. Now, go and write. And Fuck anyone who puts you down!

Oh, and apologies to any Sharons out there 🙂

 

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Books that have helped me with my writing – Part Two

So, this is part two of my post, Books that have helped me with my writing. Let’s get right into it, starting with number six;

6. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers – Renni Browne and Dave King

This is a great little book and very handy for when you’re polishing your manuscript to send to agents, or publishers, or an editor if you’re self-publishing.

This book is great for when you’ve finished the first draft of your novel and don’t know what to do next to make it shine. It covers topics such as “show and tell,” “point of view” and “voice”. It’s full of handy and practical tips to help you get the best out of your manuscript.

7. The Writer’s Guide to Psychology – Carolyn Kaufman, Psy.D.

Now, if you’re like me, you like to write about characters that have a whole host of issues. If you’re dealing with psychological issues, human behaviour and mental health problems, you need to make sure you try and get it right. This is where this book comes in. Carolyn Kauffman has a doctorate in clinical psychology and wrote this book to put things straight because, “What you think you know about psychology may not be accurate. In fact, many common beliefs are misguided, outdated, or just plain wrong.”

This will help give you a guide to psychology but be aware, advances in mental health are ongoing and parts of this book may already be out of date. However, it’s a very good place to start.

8. All the books I love and all the books that I hated and couldn’t finish!

Okay, this seems a bit like a cop-out. But, I promise you it isn’t.

I have learnt so much about writing from the books I love; J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter Series (world-building and great characters), Arthur Golden and Memoirs of a Geisha (how to write beautiful prose), Mario Puzo and The Godfather (how to create suspense). But equally we can learn much from books we don’t finish; E.L. James’ Fifty Shades Trilogy (clunky writing, how not to write, but still capturing the public’s imagination), Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights (characters that I hate and the knowledge that some people think this is a classic, therefore all tastes are different!).

What books do you love? What have they taught you? How about the ones you hate?

9. The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck – Sarah Knight

Oh my, this book has changed my life! Some of you may know of Sarah Knight through her TED talks. This book could revolutionise your life and not just your writing life. This book is actually about teaching you “how to stop spending time you don’t have doing the things you don’t want to do with people you don’t like.”

This is great because by following some of the ideas in the book I have managed to find more time for writing. It has also helped me deal with rejection and people not liking my work.

For example, on page 52 Knight states, “Ten things about which I, personally, don’t give a fuck. [Number] 1. What other people think.”

Amen to that sister!

10. On Writing – Stephen King

Okay, this one may be a cop-out because this is high on my to be read pile so I haven’t actually read it yet! It goes back to what I was saying in part one, that we, as writers, should be open to learning and new ways of doing things. In all the writer’s groups that I belong to, both in real life and on social media, this book seems to be mentioned all the time as a great book to give you advice on writing. And who can argue with that when it’s written by the master himself, Stephen King? Once I’ve read it, I will let you know what I think.

So, that’s the end of my top ten! Do you agree with my choices? Or is there another book you’d place in the top ten? Let me know.

 

Further Reading:

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers – Renni Browne and Dave King (published by Collins, 2004)

The Writer’s Guide to Psychology – Carolyn Kauffman (published by Quill Driver Books, 2010)

The Life-changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck – Sarah Knight (published by Quercus, 2015)

On Writing – Stephen King (published by Hodder and Stoughton, 2012)

My Six Tips for Handling Rejection

In life, there are times we all get rejected, whether it’s by friends or lovers, but as a writer, rejection takes on a whole new level of pain. This is equally true if you run a handmade business too. So, how do you handle it?

To be fair, this is one thing that I’ve always been quite good at. I have a very thick skin and my happiness doesn’t generally tend to rely on others. Having said that, there are times when rejection and bad reviews get to me. So, how do you deal with it and move on?

  1. Okay, so you’re book has been rejected. It’s okay to feel shitty for a bit. Rejection sucks. Allow yourself time to process it. Allow yourself time to feel crap, BUT don’t stay there wallowing in that crappy feeling. What I’m saying is, it’s okay to feel bad but don’t unpack and live there for a great length of time.
  2. Do something to make yourself feel better. What floats your boat? Do that. Feel like a walk? Do it. Wanna dance naked in the rain? Do it (but try not to get arrested). Want a piece of chocolate cake? Do it. Just don’t use it as an excuse to eat the whole goddamn cake because that ain’t gonna be good for ya! Feel the pain. Accept it. Find something to distract yourself and hopefully you’ll start to feel a bit better.
  3. Tell someone about it. This is where writing groups are fab! Fellow writers are amazing for this type of thing, both in real-life groups and those on Facebook. The best people are those that have been there and know how you’re feeling, but won’t allow you to feel sorry for yourself for too long.
  4. Just because your work was rejected doesn’t mean it sucks. I mean, the rejection sucks, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that the writing is bad. Again, use those writer friends and ask them to read through your stuff (but make sure you return the favour :)) Use it as an opportunity to look critically at your work. And remember, rejection of your work ISN’T a rejection of you as a person. It might just be that your writing wasn’t right for the person you sent it to.
  5. Maybe use it as an opportunity to put that piece of work aside and start something fresh. Leave your manuscript for a bit, start something new, then come back to it with fresh eyes. Is there anything that stands out now you’re looking at it again? Is it formatted correctly? Have you sent it to the right agent/ publisher? Can you write a better covering letter?
  6. Don’t allow rejections to control your future. Remember, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series was rejected by no less than twelve publishers! TWELVE! Think about that when you feel like giving up. Rejection isn’t about how many times you get rejected, it’s about what happens next. It’s about resilience. It’s about getting back up again, dusting yourself off and getting out there again.

Don’t let rejection define you. Use it as a tool to improve and keep pushing yourself forward. Keep doing your own thing.

What would you add to the list? How do you handle rejection?

 

Further Reading:

https://www.inc.com/amy-morin/5-ways-mentally-strong-people-deal-with-rejection.html

Thinking Outside the Box?

Thinking Outside the Box?

I can’t even remember where I put the damn box!

Much of our Christmas shopping was, like a lot of people, done online. The downside to this was the mountain of cardboard boxes that we’d built up in the garage. Knowing our recycling bin was going to be emptied soon we decided yesterday to finally attempt to crush them all up to fit them in the bin. As I was doing this, I realised that those of us with chronic illnesses are put into boxes and it’s very difficult to climb out.

To be fair, as humans we love to organise, classify and put things into categories and little neat boxes. It’s human nature. And not always a bad thing. It helps us to simplify things, to order things and make them more manageable to understand.

It helps when those of us who have struggled with pain and fatigue and other symptoms finally get our diagnosis, whatever that may be. It can help us to process what’s going on and gives us the opportunity to learn about our conditions.

On a personal level, I was relieved to get my diagnosis of fibromyalgia after years of pain and being pushed from doctor to doctor. It was something solid, something I could research and get a handle on. It was something. It gave what I was going through a name and an identity. It helped me get the treatment I needed, It helped me get the right medication. It helped me figure things out in my head.

And yet, I can’t help but see the label of fibromyalgia as a hindrance too (I know, I know, I’m being contrary :)). I was given a label and put in a box and sometimes it feels like I’ll never climb out of that box.

A person with fibromyalgia is still a person. A person who, on their good days, has so much more to give! An adult with CFS or ME shouldn’t be written off because they have CFS or ME. We are more than our labels! And also those labels don’t even begin to illustrate how varied and unique and wonderful we are in our own special way. We are people, not labels. And I am not my fibromyalgia!

“Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?”

As Adam Alter says in his blog post on Psychology Today, Why it’s Dangerous to Label People, whilst “labeling isn’t always a cause for concern, and….(is) often very useful….it’s important to recognize that the people we label as “black,” “white,” “rich,” poor,” smart,” and “simple,” seem blacker, whiter, richer, poorer, smarter, and simpler merely because we’ve labeled them so.”

So, I would say to you, let’s not be afraid to climb out of that box. Don’t be afraid to take that box and jump on it and crush it. Tear it to pieces if you need to. Be who you are, not what the label on your box tells you to be.

And if anyone else tries putting you back in that box? Tell them you are fabulous, and like all fabulous people you don’t fit into that damn box!

I will leave you with an inspirational quote from my all-time favourite writer, Charles Bukowski:

“Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?”

 

Further Reading:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/alternative-truths/201005/why-its-dangerous-label-people

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/beautiful-minds/201210/the-pesky-persistence-labels