Saturday, 22 January 2011

How do you keep writing when there's too much else to do?

Since I've just been right there - which is why I haven't posted for several days - seems like a good topic.

Situation: trying to finish Book Two, two assessments outstanding, and in come the final copy-edits to check for Book One.  Do I sacrifice my writing time and do the copy-edits?  Do I bash away at the assessments first, and hope to catch up with the rest, while keeping a frantic head around the looming deadline?

Rule One:  whatever you do, don't sacrifice your writing time.

I've broken that rule too many times and regretted it. Remember your writing time requires you to be creative, and if you're canny you've organised your life so that writing time happens when you are fully compos mentis and firing on all cylinders.  Don't waste it on sweating the small stuff.

Assessments (which happen to be my other main activity) require an editing head, not a creative one.  Likewise reading over and editing your own work, including copy-edits.  You could label research and plotting under the same heading.  You can think in your sleep!

The trick is to sandwich all the other stuff in between life commitments.  Hold your creative time sacrosanct.  If you don't, the book won't get written and you'll get more frantic.  Plus the next time you get down to it, you'll probably find you have to read over half the book before you can start because it will have leaked out of your consciousness and will need reviving.

Hold on to, and use your writing time, and you'll get to the end.

Memo to self:  Could you please for once take your own advice?  Do you realise your deadline is almost in your face?!!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

High Concept - what is it?

Ever since I was told by an agent that the work he was looking at was high concept, I've been puzzling out what it means.  I've now found a very good blog on the subject which really does explain it clearly.

This is what it says:  "Simply put, a high concept is an intriguing idea that can be stated in a few words and is easily understood by all."  Worth checking out the whole article which is on

Even if your book is not actually high concept, the article gives a useful set of tools for working out the premise of your novel so that you are clear about where you're going.  Plus it can be used to pitch to agents or editors, especially if you are networking and need a simple statement of your book.
What you're doing with this is encapsulating the story.  The premise is king, and it doesn't matter whether your book is plot driven or character driven.  It doesn't actually matter whether it's high concept either.  The purpose of the exercise is to be able to give the storyline in a few well-chosen words.

Incidentally, there are a number of articles on the net about this subject, but I found this one the easiest to grasp.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Headhopping confuses the customers

When you read over your text, look out for those interjected thoughts that emanate from some other character than the one driving the scene.  It's all too easy to throw in a comment from elsewhere than the head we're in.  Instant confusion and your reader is out of the story.

"Carina shifted tack, hoping to trick him.  'I suppose tomorrow is out of the question?'
He realised at once that she knew."

We're in Carina's head, so he's not about to realise anything.  Unless Carina sees it:

"Carina shifted tack, hoping to trick him.  'I suppose tomorrow is out of the question?'
His glance flicked away and back again.  Had he realised she knew?"

We're still in Carina's head and she's trying to read him.

A good test is to ask "Who said that?"  Meaning mental statement, not speech.

Another pitfall in this line is remembering your head character can't see themselves, so you can't use visuals that only another person could see:  "Carina looked him over with a glint in her eye."  She doesn't know she has a glint.  Stick to how she feels:  "Anger rising, Carina looked him over."

If you can, try to avoid the mirror trick.  Staying in the character's head and having them look in a mirror so you can tell us what they look like.  Clues are enough.  Is she overweight?  Have her get into a garment with difficulty or mention she bought it before she put on weight.  Then let the other character (assuming you have more than one viewpoint) tell us what the first character looks like.

Your reader will fill in the gaps, don't worry.

Keeping your viewpoint clean will up the quality level of your manuscript in leaps and bounds.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Thinking is writing too

If your story jumps around in your head when you're not at your PC, that's good news.  In the bath, in the car, on a walk, even while watching TV or a movie, and annoyingly in bed when you're trying to sleep - it can start leaping about and going places.  Let it run - it's all good stuff.

But soon as you can, get a notebook and jot down the general points.  Otherwise you may forget.  Believe me, you may.  I've lost more plot points by not writing it down than I care to remember now.

Usually I find when the plot starts rolling like this, it hasn't got anything much to do with the bit I'm writing at the moment.  That doesn't matter.  Get it into a document and let it sit there.  It might even be a different book altogether, get it down.  It's still fodder for your writing.

When you eventually come to use the ideas, they may have evolved or you may change them to suit.  But most ideas end up usable at some point.  Years later sometimes.

My historical crime series evolved from an original idea I had about 15 years ago for a "big" historical series, and my brother happened to say it could be crime.  I jotted that down as well. When I decided to switch to crime, I already had the basic scenario for the first book and I knew my heroine's name and something about her.  She evolved differently as I wrote, but the seeds of the character were there long ago.

It's worth harnessing anything that floats into your head.  Ideas are never wasted.

And a Happy New Writing Year to you all!