Using the Voice Journal Writing Technique

Originally posted on another site on 5 April 2010.

Further to my post the other day entitled Character Development, Using the Voice Journal Writing Technique I am pleased to say that I find this technique excellent.

This simple technique allowed me to get into the character’s head so completely, that I now have a thorough understanding of why she earned the love of a young man and then lost it. It wasn’t enough for me to know that she must of had qualities that endeared her to him, I had to know what made her turn nasty enough to do the things I’ll make her do in the story. I needed to know what those qualities were and what experiences changed her.

With this in mind, I opened a blank document and started typing. I did not pause to edit and I did not suppress my thoughts. I just let the words appear on the screen before me. The end result is a three page history of a woman that is to be the antagonist. The three pages gives me the answers to my questions – valid answers. I feel as if this character is no longer a drawing on a sheet of paper, but a real person standing before me.

Please meet Lonia Navra from Whispering Caves (this is the first three paragraphs only):

My name is Lonia Navra and my life has been filled with death, longing and outrage. My mother died shortly after I was born, from the birthing sickness, and my father never forgave me for that…or for the fact that I was a girl. One daughter was tolerable, but two was insufferable, especially when there was no longer a wife to produce a boy. By the time I was born, my older sister had already won my father’s love, but I was never to be as lucky.

When I was almost six, my sister died from Butterweed Fever and I’m not sure why that was also blamed on me, but it was. My father hated me wholeheartedly from the day he buried his precious Katryn. By then I had given up trying to win him over as, even at that young age I knew it wouldn’t happen.

Is it wrong to be glad when a parent dies? I don’t think it is a sign of good character, but I beseech you to understand that my father’s hatred of me was not restricted to harsh words. I often received the back of his hand across my face or the sting of a thick leather strap when I displeased him. And it pains me to admit that the torment didn’t stop there, the suffering I was subjected to during the long hours of night has left me terrified of the dark. I could never please him. Never! So, on the day I arrived home from tending the goats to find my father laying dead beneath a fallen tree — his skull cracked open — I couldn’t help but feel gratitude that the man would never again place a hand on me. I was nine summers old at the time.

I needed her to have deep routed reasons for her actions and now I have them. I want the reader to feel sorry for her, understand her misery, but condemn her reaction to what happens in the story. It comes down to morals, upbringing, experiences and knowledge. But in the end, she makes a choice. She can go either way. She can pick right or wrong. She is in control. Can she put bitterness behind her…?

I am so pleased with what has come out of a few hours writing today and I highly recommend that you try this method to give your characters realistic depth.

Chris Howard Reviews the iPad

Originally posted on another site on 5 April 2010.

I love technology. I love watching the world change in this area, as electronics improve and shift. I love being able to say that I used the old computers way back “in the old days” (which wasn’t that long ago really). I love knowing that I’ll be around to witness the way of the future.

When I visited Chris Howard’s blog this morning I was delighted to find a long post on his first experiences with the iPad – Chris Howard’s Writing & Art: Okay, I’m sold, Mr. Jobs. I love the iPad.

In recent months I’ve read a lot of ebooks on my wonderful iPod Touch. The screen is small (especially compared to the iPad), but it doesn’t matter as I’m used to it and it doesn’t take anything away from the story I’m consumed by.

I have no intention of going out and buying an iPad any time soon. I simply couldn’t justify paying that sort of money out when I’ve only just purchased the “little” brother (so to speak). Besides, finances wouldn’t allow it. However, I see the iPad as a complete shift in technology. I believe the desktop computer will soon be obsolete, the laptop will hang on for a while, but it too will eventually be replaced by future offspring of iPad type technology. One day, we will all have flat computer that do everything several gadgets do now. I find this thought fascinating and exciting.

In a world where we expect everything instantly, I think smaller, lighter computers are necessary. Today’s laptops are too heavy to lug around. I don’t know what the weight of the iPad is, but I have a feeling it is the lightest form of “connecting to the web” we’ve seen so far, except for phones and iPod touches, of course, but they don’t count. Why? Because I said so. 😀

Anyway, do you have an opinion on the iPad? I’d love to hear it.

Amulet Rejection

About a month ago I submitted a short story – Amulet of Kemet – to a magazine. The story has had the benefit of a good “working over” by a good friend of mine and I feel confident that it’s a story that can find a publisher…if I persist.

A few days ago, I received a rejection from the publisher. However, as rejections go, this one was excellent. The editor wrote a short paragraph telling me that the premise was thoroughly enjoyed, but the main character did things that didn’t fit with his status. I was then given three examples which were directly focused on the character, which is the most helpful feedback a writer can receive. This was followed by some words of encouragement and the request that I send other completed work to them for consideration.

Rejections are awful – they can often depress the writer, sometimes they can even shatter confidences – but when feedback accompanies those awful words then it doesn’t feel like a rejection at all. Of course, the feedback may not necessarily be correct, but on this occasion I believe the editor is right – the character is acting wrong for the circumstances he’s in. I can see that plainly now that it has been pointed out and I will take the time to implement changes to that affect before I submit the story elsewhere.

Character Development, Using the Voice Journal Writing Technique

Originally posted on another site on 4 April 2010.

Deborah Woehr recently wrote a post on Character Development, Using the Voice Journal Writing Technique. The technique is a simple exercise but I feel it would open the doors for the author to see more than they, at first, could imagine.

I haven’t actually tried the technique yet, but I intend to give it a try later today. However, I have found myself thinking about some of the characters in a “journal” way instead of a “profile” way. Already, things about the characters are coming through that I didn’t intend to include, didn’t even consider including in their profile. I believe the reason for this is that when writing a journal type entry on a character, you need access to more information in order to bring them alive on the page. And…isn’t that exactly what all writers need for all their characters?! Of course it is.

Thank you, Deborah, for sharing your experience with your readers; I think you’ve given me a very useful tool. 😀

I’ll let you know how I go.

My Writing: Turning the Focus Around

Originally posted on another site on 19 March 2010.

Firstly, you might remember that a while ago I talked about trying out “writing on the train in the afternoon” – I thought I’d give a quick update on how that is going. So far, it’s working out really well. I’m doing about an hour and a half of work during this time frame, which I think is pretty good. Generally, it isn’t too difficult to concentrate and the more I use the laptop on the train, the less self-conscious I feel. The first week was spent on the Whispering Caves planning – more about that later in the post. The second week has seen me reading through my completed short stories (and doing some small adjustments). There are only four in total, which are now all newly edited and ready to submit. I have also set up a spreadsheet with sheets showing “Completed Stories”, “Submissions”, “Rejections” and “Publications”. One of the stories is out on submission, so my goal for the weekend is to submit the other three stories to likely publishers. I will then turn my attention to my completed novel length manuscripts and do the same thing. Once this is done, I’ll feel a lot happier and then I’ll move back to my main project – Whispering Caves.

Whispering Caves is proving to be a difficult story to plan. The character storylines are done, as is the history and world building and I’m extremely pleased with what I have. A single, important thread is where the problem is. I feel it isn’t as strong as it could be and I’m not sure what to do about it. Actually, if I had to put it into words, I’d say it had a wishy washy middle that just isn’t up to scratch. I’m certainly not happy with what I have and cannot start writing until I figure out what’s to be done about the problem.

Despite this small setback, I made another decision that has made me very happy. Due to the fact that I’ve been working on my small list of short stories and intend to submit them over the weekend, I came up with the idea to write short stories using minor characters from Whispering Caves. Not only will this cement the world and its people further into my mind, if I can get the stories published, they could be used to generate interest in the novel length story.

I’m excited by this idea. I know I need to stop planning and start writing. This will be the perfect opportunity to do just that. In the meantime, I can still let that problem thread roll around in my mind and perhaps I’ll find a solution.

Book Review: Writing Fiction for Dummies

Originally posted on another site on 12 March 2010.

Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy

My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Writing Fiction for Dummies is an excellent resource for new writers. It covers all the basics from starting out to looking for a publisher, which would provide a solid foundation to get started with for any serious writer.

As I’m not a newbie, I didn’t get as much from the book as a new writer would, but I knew that when I purchased the book. I bought it for two reasons, no make that three reasons:

1.One of the co-authors is Randy Ingermanson (the snowflake guy). As I use the Snowflake method all the time and I subscribe to his newsletter, I was sure the book would be useful in helping me improve my method…I was right!

2.I needed an inspiration boost and felt I’d get it from this book. This is related to the first point in a way; knowing the content would be heavily Snowflake influenced convinced me that I’d be inspired to get stuck into my own planning…and I was right again!! (I love being right.) 😉

3.I was interested to read the section of writing proposals. This is something I’ve been researching for a few weeks now, but I haven’t been able to find anything useful. When I realised there was a section on proposal writing in the book, I was pleased. I didn’t know what to expect, but I learned more than I imagined and now have a “Proposal Template” saved in my writing file. I’m sure I’ll be returning to that section of the book often when I need help filling in the different sections of the proposal.

While new writers need to find a method that works for them, a more advanced writer needs to bring things back into prospective at times and I think that’s what I got from the book most of all – a reminder that determination and persistence is the only way to move forward.

Thanks to this book, I’m enthusiastic about my next project.

Book Reviews: River God and The Seventh Scroll

Originally posted on another site on 11 march 2010.

For many years I’ve had a fascination for Medieval times and Ancient Egypt. I find both these eras captivating and romantic, although I’m well aware of how hard life really would have been in those days. I have heaps of history books on the subjects and the stories I write are often (nearly always) built on similar cultures (which is something I think I need to revise).

Anyway, when my partner read River God followed quickly by Seventh Scroll, written by Wilbur Smith, some years ago, he was quick to tell me that he thought I’d enjoy the books because of my addiction to Ancient Egypt. However, as the books are over 600 pages each, I found that I couldn’t fit them in to my reading schedule because at the time I was reading thin books, on an irregular basis.

Now I have plenty of reading time – four hours a day, five days a week – so picking up a thick book is no longer daunting. At the beginning of the work year (11 January, for me) I started reading River God. Three weeks later I started Seventh Scroll. I finished both books on 19 February and I started writing this post back then, but never got to finish it until today.

I’m going to write one post, but include two reviews.

River God (Ancient Egypt, #1)

River God by Wilbur Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One thing I detest is a book that opens with a weather report, so this book got off to a very bad start. If I had been in a book shop, I would have discarded the book straight away. No second thoughts. However, as the book had been sitting on my bookshelf for some time and I knew that my partner would have been disappointed with me if I’d thrown it to one side so early, I continued reading. It took a while for me to forgive that first mistake so I think I settled into the story somewhere in the second or third chapter. (Yes, I’m a harsh reader.)

The story is set 4,000 years ago and is based loosely on scrolls found in a tomb in, I believe, the 1980’s or 90’s. However, I can’t verify this information and it might possibly be a publicity stunt; I honestly don’t know. That aside, the story is told in first person from the point of view of a eunuch slave. And doesn’t that slave love himself! I found that quite annoying for a while, he could do anything and everything and most people don’t like a know-it-all. But the character was convincing, which proves that the author wrote him extremely well. Once I accepted this “trait” I grew attached to him and the story then took a firm hold of me.

The story tells a believable tale of the lives of a Pharaoh, his Queen and the queen’s lover and the web of lies surrounding them. Not only do they have to battle armies sent to invade their land from afar, they must defend themselves against the traitors from within their own walls.

The characters are deep and have meaning. The setting is written like a painting on the wall – I could see every detail clearly in my mind, it almost felt as if I was living the life of an ancient Egyptian. The problems were real and the romance shattering. It’s a well woven story that speaks volumes.

I was confident that the details about the world had been thoroughly researched and everything was written in context, so that the reader would learn a bit more about a very special era. Knowing that, allowed me to enjoy the story that much more.

The story and characters presented moments of laughter and moments of heart wrenching sadness. It was an emotional journey from start to finish. It is a story that is worth the effort, despite the fact that it opens with a weather report.

The Seventh Scroll (Ancient Egypt, #2)

The Seventh Scroll by Wilbur Smith

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The second book was a complete surprise to me. Not only did it leave the characters behind that I had come to enjoy “travelling” with, the story was set in our time – 4,000 years after the eunuch slave had passed away. I can’t remember how this book opened, so am not sure if there was another weather report or not. The reason I can’t remember is because I was too busy feeling gutted about the fact that a whole new set of character were being set in place and a whole new world provided for them to act in.

Once I got over that shock, I quickly realised that the author’s style of writing was completely different too. River God was written in an old fashioned way. The Seventh Scroll was written in a modern style, befitting the era, which was easier to read too. It was only then that I realised the author had deliberately written River God in that archaic fashion and that impressed me immensely. Only a gifted author could change styles so elegantly and successfully.

The Seventh Scroll is told in third person and is the story of a modern day woman who finds a bunch of the eunuch slave’s scroll in the tomb of his mistress, Queen Lostris. The scrolls, especially the seventh scroll, give clues as to where the Pharaoh was entombed all those centuries ago. And, of course, as we all know a Pharaoh’s tomb is laden with lots and lots of treasure. So the question is, which grave robbers are going to solve the puzzle and get to the tomb first – the good ones or the bad ones – and who will make it to the end alive?!

In the end, I enjoyed this book a bit more than the first one. It was fast paced and easier to read because of the up-to-date writing style the author used. I enjoyed the connection to the much loved characters from the first novel, but I grew attached to the new characters as well. Because it was modern-day, I found it a little more gruesome as I guess stories set in ancient worlds can be thought of as “not real” so there’s a certain detachment, which isn’t true when the story is much closer to home.

The author was true to form and blended a complex plot with meaningful characters…and there’s a romantic thread, which I’m a sucker for, so I was happy all round. This is another book I highly recommend.

Looking back at the two books, it’s interesting (to me) to note that when I think of River God I see pictures haloed in gold in my mind. Everything is bright, beautiful and serene (although the story doesn’t depict those things). When I think of The Seventh Scroll the images in my mind are darker, dirtier and bloodier. I wonder, is that a reflection on how I see the two eras?

Whispering Caves: One-Sentence Summary Revised

Originally posted on another site on 6 March 2010.

As noted in Whispering Caves: Planning a Novel I had a one-sentence summary that I wasn’t 100% happy with. This morning I’ve been physically working on the plan and have a revised sentence.

Transported to a forgotten world, a neglected, modern-day teenager must cope with being the centre of attention as she battles to find a way home.

The above isn’t that different to the first one I had, but it feels more complete and I’m much happier with it.

In other news, I have draft profiles for three of the four main characters. Two of the characters were quite easy to write, but the third one offered some difficulties for me to overcome. I couldn’t work out his epiphany, but with a short discussion with my partner the problem with quickly resolved (I was looking at the character’s situation from the wrong angle). That character’s motivations have changed as a result, which means he’s going to be a different person to what I had imagined. It will be interesting to get to know him.

Anyway, that’s my morning writing session come to a close. I have some things I have to do now, but I intend to have another writing session this afternoon. I’m already looking forward to it. 😀