Monday 23 February 2009

SOCIAL: Au revoir

My beloved Mother had a heart attack yesterday. She is doing well after surgery but my elderly Dad requires 24/7 care, and my sister emigrated to the UK two weeks ago, so my time is now focused on my family care. My sister is flying back home so I can still accompany my husband on his business trip to Switzerland and Croatia, which is in two weeks.

So blogging and blog visiting is sadly not feasible for me right now

I hope to be back participating at some later stage. So, from me, au revoir!

Friday 20 February 2009

WRITING TIPS: Creating Beyond Need

I've been thinking about writing goals and query letters and being published. Why, when we only reach a smaller word count then we'd aimed for in our daily writing, do we feel guilty? Why do we place such importance on an agent’s response to a query letter? And why do we feel that we aren’t “An Author” unless we’re published?

Why can't we be proud that we've done something, which is much more, and much better, than doing no writing at all?

I think it's because we live in an age of quantity. The media shapes us with the notion that larger, faster, and more are often synonymous with better. We're told that we need to find more time, more possessions, and more everything to be truly happy.

However, do we ever stop to think that a smaller quantity of anything, but one which is high in quality, will almost always be more satisfying? Surely, one fulfilling writing experience can eclipse many empty moments of not writing.

It’s not the quantity of writing that matters, but the quality that we experience during each moment of doing what we love to do. Every minute is an opportunity to develop confidence and self-respect, and exhibit courage by actually writing, rather than just talking about it.

Quality can make life sweeter. When we focus on quality, all our writing, and our life, experiences can become truly meaningful. Often, in the pursuit of quantity we cheat ourselves of quality and forget that, ultimately, it's not how much we write or do each day, but what we make of each moment that counts.

Instead of worrying about successes and failures, let’s just celebrate every word we write, whether one or one thousand, whether published or not. Let’s see every rejection letter as a badge of courage, for telling stories is our dream and writing for the joy of it can only make the quality of our lives better.

Wednesday 18 February 2009

ADMIN ALERT: The Facebook Saga - The End (we hope)

Read Colleen Lindsay update on how Facebook has reverted to the old terms of service.

CONTEST: Query Haiku

Literary agent Colleen Lindsay has a fabulous, fun query contest on her blog. Write your query in haiku format ( 3 lines, 5/7/5 syllables) and the winner gets a detailed crit of his/her query letter.

Rush to enter now!

Tuesday 17 February 2009

ADMIN ALERT: More on the Facebook Saga

LA Times challenges FaceBook founder's reply to changed Terms of Service:

Thanks to literary agent Colleen Lindsay for the link on her blog The Swivet.

From e-Law & management, with thanks to my husband, Dr Beric Croome, for bringing it to my attention.

Monday 16 February 2009

NEWSFLASH: New Facebook Terms of Service grant Facebook the ownership of your content. Forever.

This is a must-read article. Please pass on to all authors so they are aware that any and all content they post on their FaceBook page belongs to FaceBook in perpetuity (and even grants FB the right to SELL their work!!!)

The Swivet [Colleen Lindsay]: New Facebook Terms of Service grant Facebook the ownership of your content. Forever.

Thanks to agent Colleen Lindsay for bringing this to our attention!

Tomorrow's Dreams

At times when I struggle get momentum in my writing, I find myself wishing I knew what my life was going to look like in the coming months and years. Will this novel be the one that's finally published? Will my writing goals and personal goals ever be realised?

Occasionally, I catch a glimpse of what is waiting for me. And then, even though I think I would like to know the whole story in all its details, the truth is that I'd probably be overwhelmed if I knew everything that's going to happen to me.

If I think of my life as I've lived it up to this point, I'm surprised to realise that I've probably done more and faced more than I could ever have imagined. If someone had told me as a child of all I would experience, along with each experience's inherent ups and downs, I'd have become exhausted before even starting on my life's journey.

With my head full of information about the future, I'd have found it impossible to actually live my life in the present moment - and, truly, the only moment we have where something actually happens is the "now". Think of the Sanskrit poem "Tomorrow is only a dream, yesterday a memory, but today well lived makes every memory one of happiness and every dream one of hope."

So, in many ways, not knowing what the future has in store brings out in us the qualities we need to grow. For example, if we knew for certain our manuscripts were not going to be accepted (which, of course, won’t happen to us) we'd have a terrible time committing ourselves to actually writing. Yet, it's through the writing of our previous manuscripts and our commitment to see them through that we experienced the lessons we needed to grow as writers.

Looking back on our writing, I think we'd be hard pressed to say that anything should not have happened the way it did. In fact, our most challenging experiences, the inevitable rejections, may ultimately bring us the greatest rewards by turning us into better writers than we would have been without the need to improve our craft.

Not knowing the future keeps us just where we need to be: fully committed to our current manuscripts. Our future stories are but a nebulous vision. Yesterday’s stories are nothing but a memory. But today’s story well-written makes yesterday’s manuscript another brick laid in the foundations of tomorrow’s dreams.

Saturday 14 February 2009

SOCIAL: In Memoriam - A Favourite Aunt Says Goodbye

Audrey Joan Fouché
(04-02-1928 to 14-02-2009)

Some things are always constant. The sun rises in the morning. Spring follows winter. And, every year of my life, I received a birthday card from my favourite aunt.

This morning, just before eight o’clock, my Mom’s elder sister, my Aunty Joanie, passed away after a short illness bravely borne. She died as she lived, worrying about other people and not thinking of herself.

I could remember her for many things: her kindness, her dedication to her family and her faith, and her years of uncomplaining service to her Church's Women’s League. But it’s her laugh that I’ll never forget. Deep, rich and loud, you couldn’t help laughing along when Aunty Joan started roaring with laughter.

She is now with a host of angels and the God she worshipped her whole life. Her pain and suffering is over; she is healed and loved. How can we be sad for her? It’s our loss I mourn, because the world has suddenly shifted on its axis and everything that was constant is now out of joint.

Hamba kahle, Aunty Joan, go well with God. We love you.

"Death is not the extinguishing of the is the putting out of the lamp because a new dawn has come." Rabindranath Tagore

Wednesday 11 February 2009

DISCUSSION: Can you read and write?

Well, obviously you can. You wouldn’t be reading my blog otherwise! What I should rather ask is: can you read fiction while you’re writing your own novel?

Young writer Justus M Bowman wrote on his blog “reading is more work than play for me these days" and I had to agree with him. I used to be a voracious reader; I could finish an average size book in a day or I’d read into the wee hours of the night to finish a longer book.

Since I become a writer, though, I seem to have lost the joy I had in reading fiction. When I read, I’m working. I’m constantly checking the text to assess it. What did the author do right to make this passage move me? What is wrong with this paragraph that my attention is lost? On and on the questions go!

I’m not alone either. In an interview romance author Laura Kinsale had this to say:

“When I became a writer, I lost the ability to read fiction. I can see all the buttons being pushed. I find it very difficult to become immersed in a story now - for me, it's like watching a movie and knowing exactly what the set looks like: the lights are overhead, the director is sitting off to the side, a make-up artist is standing there ready to buff up the actors' faces. It was a great loss to me. I've been able to read a bit more in the past few years, but I still read very little fiction of any kind. I read lots and lots of non-fiction”

I find the moment my mind starts wandering off into the realm of a new full length novel, I stop reading. It’s as if my brain can’t cope with being a reader and a writer at the same time. So how about you? Can you read and write at the same time?

Sunday 8 February 2009

The Sound of Writing

Do you listen to your writing? No, I don’t mean have you read your writing. Have you listened to it?

There’s a natural rhythm to words that we often forget. I’d go so far as to say that rhythm is more important than grammar and punctuation. You can fix these, but if your writing doesn’t sing to your readers, then it’ll sink.

The sound of your writing is a subtle cadence, an inner tune that ebbs and flows like a wave on the shore. Constantly moving, the melody in your story communicates a deeper layer to your reader. Deeper even then mere words on paper.

In the same way that a musician will link different notes together to make a tune, so a writer needs to link syllables and words, phrases, sentences and paragraphs, which at once transcend and support the meaning of the actual words.

Each writer will create his own unique melody: a leitmotif that is instantly recognisable in the same way that a symphony by Mozart is recognisable from the opening bars the orchestra plays. This refrain is what draws a reader into the story and it’s an intrinsic part of the writer’s voice.

You can’t learn a rhythm, but you can feel it. Where does your writing feel wrong to you? Where does it feel right? Logic and your inner editor may tell you that you have the words perfectly constructed. But if a word or a sentence or chapter doesn’t feel right, your natural rhythm may have come unstuck.

Read your work – aloud or in your head – but listen as you read. Try to find the parts of your writing that “flow” and see if you can identify why it sings to you. And, once you’ve discovered the sound of your writing, you can let your own voice soar…because why write a song when you can write a symphony?

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Sunday 1 February 2009

The Art of Procrastination

Procrastination noun delay, dilatoriness, hesitation, slackness, slowness, temporization

Procrastination is the fear of success. People procrastinate because they are afraid of the success that they know will result if they move ahead now. Because success is heavy, carries a responsibility with it, it is much easier to procrastinate and live on the 'someday I will' philosophy. Denis Waitley (American motivational speaker. b.1933)

One thing that's good about procrastination is that you always have something planned for tomorrow. G. B. Stern (British novelist, 1890 -1973)
I often think if I were as diligent with the art of writing as I am with the art of procrastination, I’d be published by now. I often wonder why I waste so much energy using delaying tactics when it comes to approaching my writing.

I’m busy with the last corrections on my current manuscript right now, so it’s not even as if it is a difficult task. The worst is behind me. Or perhaps it’s ahead of me, because – of course – once I put this ms to bed, I’ll have to start on the next one. And therein lies the answer to why I procrastinate: fear.

As long as this ms is still active, I can feel all “writerly” and professional. What a lovely ring it has when someone says “And what did you do today?” and I answer, ever so casually, “Oh, I worked on the re-writes of my current ms.” But lurking beneath the smugness is the fear that no one except myself can sense.

That fear has a face and it’s called “closure”. When this novel is finished, that’s it. No more dreaming of how great a novel it is. It’s time for a reality check. Because once it’s finished it has to be sent out to face its future - alone.

A future that may include the knowledge that this novel is not The Novel, my breakthrough. Once all the responses to the query letters have come back, there is nothing else to do on this story.

I may get all rejections, or, if I’m very, very lucky, there may be a request or two for a partial, which may or may not lead to a request for a full. But the statistics are daunting, and it's much easier to simply procrastinate (and call it rewriting) then get myself to the point of actually completing the ms because, as long as I’m still rewriting, I don’t have to fling it out into the wide wide world of publishing in an attempt to beat the odds.

Well, luckily, I’m a gambler at heart. I think all writers must be, because writing is like bungee jumping for the soul. One has to leap into the abyss, with absolutely no hesitation and no thought of what could go wrong. That’s what I’ve done. Even though I’m still busy with the final rewrites, I stopped procrastinating. I closed my eyes and leapt. I mailed my query letters.

And so, my part in the life of this dear manuscript is complete. Its fate is now in the hands of the gods and...ce qui sera, sera.