Jan 28, 2010

New Kid on the Block by Nicole Townsend



It’s never too late to start, I’ve only been writing for about a year and a half and as so many people say ‘I’ve always wanted to write a book’ but never do, I finally decided to do something about it.

I’m an avid reader and I know what inspires me but before actually putting pen to paper I couldn’t think of a decent plot, so it always ended as a ‘gunnado’, putting it on the back burner and delaying the whole process. What took so long to sink in is that you actually have to start somewhere. Just write! Plot or no plot.

Luckily for me, that day did come; I found an old exercise book and started in longhand to get me started. I just wrote for myself, a story that I would want to read, with no ulterior motive or publishing thoughts in mind. I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. My first draft ended up at only 25’000 words, I gave it to two friends to read and they both came back encouraging me to continue and develop it, so I persevered.

A year later I had 60’000 words and I was reasonably happy with the outcome. Two more friends read it and were generous with their praise. I knew it was a bit short but I had proved that I could last the distance and keep at it. I had enjoyed the experience, even the bad days feeling that I was wasting my time.

I had barely finished when just one word triggered a rush of new ideas for my next project and before I knew it a whole plot had developed and I was on my way again, on a roller coaster ride of adventure, looking forward each day to see where my characters would take me. I love that feeling of being part of them, their thrills and tribulations, their sadness and heartache.

The first draft is definitely the most fun, exploring, letting your ideas take you wherever they want, sometimes pulling them back into line. This time I’m trying to pace myself better, I’m improving and the word count is rising. I’ll get there eventually!



***

My name is Nicole Townsend, I grew up in Switzerland and England.

Travelling was part of my life from the day I was born. I immigrated to Australia in 1973 and worked in the travel industry (of course). I married Keith who had travelled as much as I had, and then we settled down to raise a couple of boys away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

We’ve been farming in the South of Western Australia for the last 17 years; we enjoyed the change of lifestyle but are now ready to hit the road again as soon as we can sell.

Jan 25, 2010

Finding inspiration! by Hélene Young

If only it was straight forward…

People, towns, news stories or even a vista can all spark my imagination though if I had to pick one thing that never fails to inspire me I’d say ‘place’. The setting is very important for me and landscape is an integral part of that. Most days when I go to work I look down on Australia. We often joke that we have the world’s smallest office with the world’s best view! Call me biased, but working as a pilot for a regional airline, and flying over the Great Barrier Reef, is a pretty special way to spend the day. (And don’t tell my boss, but I think they actually pay me to sit there and admire the scenery…)

On a typical day I might do the early morning return flight to Hamilton Island in the magical Whitsundays. Our track takes us out over the Coral Sea and we make landfall again as we thread our way down the centre of the Whitsunday Islands. Easy for me to imagine my hero and heroine rendezvousing at sunrise on a tiny atoll ringed by coral reefs, as they hunt down smugglers.

If our flight heads north out of Cairns then we’re on our way to Weipa or Horn Island. I’ve used Weipa and its surrounds extensively in Border Watch because it’s such a unique place. The red bauxite-rich earth punches through the dark green of the trees in bold, vibrant slashes of colour. Everything feels big in Weipa. The mining trucks are enormous, the four-wheel drive vehicles have been fed steroids and the crocodiles are definitely in the monster category. Arcing over the whole landscape is a vibrant blue sky that has no end.

Further north is Horn Island, gateway to the beautiful Torres Strait. With its opalescent water, white beaches and scattered islands it’s Australia’s best-kept secret. On a clear day, when the visibility stretches on for miles, you can see the smudge of the Papua New Guinea coastline. Most people don’t realize how close Australia is to its northern neighbours - perfect to delve into the possibilities of illegal entry to our country.

Bernadette Foley, my wonderful publisher from Hachette, had some great advice on my first draft of Border Watch -‘Treat the Australian landscape as another character.’ I hope I’ve achieved that.

When I get off an aircraft in Cairns and the humidity slaps me in the face I know I’m in North Queensland. Drive through the forests south towards Charters Towers and the smell of lemon myrtle takes my breath away. Be greeted by the laconic humour of a publican in Chillagoe and I can’t help but smile. The history and diversity of the people that live in rural Australia add another layer, another dimension to that landscape that makes their towns unique and for me inspirational.



***

I live by a beach just north of Cairns – my own tiny slice of paradise in North Queensland. When I’m not writing, you’ll find me flying Dash 8 aircraft for QantasLink around regional Australia. I write romantic suspense with feisty, confident heroines who (not surprisingly) work in the aviation industry. My stories are set in the top end of Australia – a wild and wonderful, larger-than-life environment just begging to be showcased in novels filled with intrigue.’

'Border Watch' March 2010, Hachette Australia
'Beyond the Borders' March 2011

www.heleneyoung.com

Jan 20, 2010

My New Year’s Resolution – A Home Office Solution!

By Lisa Lipkind Leibow

This may be difficult for some of you to understand. I WANT to have an organized, neat writing space. However, the daily influx of coupons, catalogues, magazines and umpteen bills. Oh, and of course, the mail holds stacks of self-addressed, stamped envelopes coming back to me from literary magazines and agents. The paper keeps on coming. I sort through the piles. Most of the catalogues and coupons go right in the trash. I track the responses from agents and magazines then trash the rejections. I save the envelopes because my mother uses the stamps in her artwork. The bills go in a “to be paid” stack on my desk. The rest goes in an “in case I might need it someday” pile.

But there is more: I am buried in print-outs of my manuscripts-in-progress, scraps of paper and notebooks with story ideas, to-do lists, others’ stories to critique, flyers advertising my writing group at the local library, and receipts for writing-related expenses. I don’t want you to think I’m the only contributor to my paper mess. My three sons’ contribute to the mess with homework assignments, tests, report cards, newsletters, book order forms, field trip permission slips, contracts for musical instrument rentals, and art projects galore.

And this is why I rarely sit at the beautiful, antique, partner’s desk I wish I could call my work space. Instead I like to curl up on a fainting sofa – it seems the perfect spot for drama to unfold. I often write there, balancing my computer in my lap and listening to my dog Bosco snoring at my feet.

Focusing on my work space wishes has inspired me to reorganize, though! Here are some of the pictures of my progress. (WARNING: It gets messier before it gets neater!)

I have boxed up and moved to the basement all of the old manuscripts and research files for Double Out and Back and novel #2, currently seeking a publishing home, to clear some space for current works in progress.


I have started to organize my office supplies. I have this blog assignment to thank for getting my tush in gear to finish the job and get my desk in shape! I hope to be able to sit at this desk on a regular basis. Thanks for the jump start on my New Year’s Resolution. I’ll be working on my next novel at that beautiful desk!




***


After being stuck at her office on 9/11, a month-long siege on metro Washington, DC by a sniper, and discovering that the other parents at her twins’ preschool thought her au pair was her sons’ mom, Lisa could hear these words echoing in her ears. “If I knew this was what it was going to be like to have it all, I would have settled for less.” (Lily Tomlin: The Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe)

Lisa didn’t really settle for less. She settled for different, and traded the billable hour lifestyle for fiction writing. Making up stories is much more fun than negotiating contracts, attending hearings, and deciphering statutes and regulations for clients. More than that, it has given her an excuse to pretend to be anyone from airplane pilot to zookeeper!

Lisa’s work can be seen in the Pisgah Review. Her debut novel is scheduled to release in 2009 by Red Rose Publishing (mainstream fiction).

Lisa lives and writes in Northern Virginia with her husband, three children, a couch potato of a dog, and two red-eared slider turtles.

You can visit Lisa Lipkind Leibow at www.LLLeibow.com and www.LisaLeibow.blogspot.com

Jan 19, 2010

Finding Time to Write int the Midst of Happy Chaos

Finding Time to Write int the Midst of Happy Chaos

By Lisa Lipkind Leibow

Getting a story out of my head and onto the page can require huge blocks-of-time. If I’m gearing up to dump a first draft from my brain, I tend to front load my “real life” chores by stocking the fridge with meals so I can just stick them in the oven, and having plenty of take-out menus at the ready for nights when I can’t be bothered with cooking. I have even been known to purchase my family some extra underwear, so I can stretch out the time between loads of laundry… (is that bad?). I try to anticipate what I will be ignoring while getting lost in my fiction, and handle it up front.

Once I read that first draft (fit for nobody’s eyes but my own), marking it up with ideas for new scenes, thoughts about something I’d like to add, move, or change. I clean up wording as I go, and enhance narrative, fine-tune dialogue, and more. I mark these notes within the text with asterisks. The asterisks make it easy for me to find places within the manuscript I need to tackle. I work my way through each starred-notation, sometimes in big chunks of time, sometimes five-minutes-here, five-minutes-there. This part of my writing process fits more easily into the happy chaos of my real life.

However, at certain points in my creative process, I need additional, huge chunks-of-time, as I did when getting the story out of my head and onto the page. In particular, I need uninterrupted time to comb through a manuscript to evaluate the big picture and to identify plot holes, opportunities to enhance narrative, and areas I need to delve deeper into a character’s emotion. During these times, if I haven’t planned well enough up-front, I usually let dishes pile in the sink, let my family find and fold their own laundry, and order take-out for dinner every night.

If I’m lucky, I can escape for a few days on my own and focus solely on the book. I come away from these retreats or total immersion with a game plan. I list all of the scenes I need to touch, all of the descriptions of important objects, or characters, or setting. I use this check-list to tackle my re-write in bits and pieces, fifteen minutes here, a half-hour there. This way, my re-write phase can carry on while I manage real-life alongside my characters’ fictional lives.

Recently, I graduated from aspiring novelist to published author. This accomplishment makes me glow with pride – and adds new responsibilities to the balancing act writer’s life vs. real life. Marketing and promotion of my work takes up hours of my day I used to devote to the creative process and to sleeping. I’m still learning to fit this aspect of the writing life into my world.

I’m attempting to carve out an hour or two a day to devote to interviews, website updates, blogging, social networking, and book signings. But this means I have a little less time for everything else. Lately, strictly enforcing my children’s chore list, and having the family eat on paper plates has given me a little extra time to devote to promoting my writing to the public.

So, you see, my balancing act of real life and writer’s life is a combination of plan-ahead and let-it-slide. Somehow, I manage!

***


After being stuck at her office on 9/11, a month-long siege on metro Washington, DC by a sniper, and discovering that the other parents at her twins’ preschool thought her au pair was her sons’ mom, Lisa could hear these words echoing in her ears. “If I knew this was what it was going to be like to have it all, I would have settled for less.” (Lily Tomlin: The Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe)

Lisa didn’t really settle for less. She settled for different, and traded the billable hour lifestyle for fiction writing. Making up stories is much more fun than negotiating contracts, attending hearings, and deciphering statutes and regulations for clients. More than that, it has given her an excuse to pretend to be anyone from airplane pilot to zookeeper!

Lisa’s work can be seen in the Pisgah Review. Her debut novel is scheduled to release in 2009 by Red Rose Publishing (mainstream fiction).

Lisa lives and writes in Northern Virginia with her husband, three children, a couch potato of a dog, and two red-eared slider turtles.

You can visit Lisa Lipkind Leibow at www.LLLeibow.com and www.LisaLeibow.blogspot.com

Jan 18, 2010

First Drafts: Write Drunk! by Lisa Lipkind Leibow

Write Drunk!


In November 2005, I learned to write drunk during my first year as a National Novel Writing Month participant. Don’t get the wrong idea. This doesn’t mean I downed martinis the entire month, winding up sloshed. It means NaNoWriMo 2005 was the first time I attempted to push through, to get my story out of my head and onto the page without worrying about revising until later. Coming from a writer who normally agonized over every word, and wasted months re-writing the same scene before moving on, I found the process of letting go completely liberating.

I spent the whole month, learning about my characters, interviewing them about their deepest, darkest secrets, testing them with great challenges, and probing their psyches to explore what makes them tick. After NaNoWriMo ‘05 was over, I had the seeds of my first novel.

After the month of writing drunk, I sobered up for the big revision. I admit, I reverted to my old ways of agonizing over every word, the structure, and plot holes. I tweaked, enhanced characterizations, rearrange chapters, scenes, paragraphs, wove in subplots, and more.

All of the hard work has paid off. Double Out and Back a novel that grew from my very first NaNoWrimo draft is available NOW from Red Rose Publishing and other leading e-book outlets, including All Romance eBooks, Mobipocket, and Amazon Kindle.

Double Out and Back takes the reader on the roller-coaster ride of infertility treatments as seen through the eyes of three women. I’m perpetually almost-finished revising-sober my second year’s NaNoWriMo work, awaiting feedback from critique partners on two other National Novel Writing month winning manuscripts, and I just finished another first draft by writing drunk, again in November 2009.

You should try it! It works!


***

After being stuck at her office on 9/11, a month-long siege on metro Washington, DC by a sniper, and discovering that the other parents at her twins’ preschool thought her au pair was her sons’ mom, Lisa could hear these words echoing in her ears. “If I knew this was what it was going to be like to have it all, I would have settled for less.” (Lily Tomlin: The Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe)

Lisa didn’t really settle for less. She settled for different, and traded the billable hour lifestyle for fiction writing. Making up stories is much more fun than negotiating contracts, attending hearings, and deciphering statutes and regulations for clients. More than that, it has given her an excuse to pretend to be anyone from airplane pilot to zookeeper!

Lisa’s work can be seen in the Pisgah Review. Her debut novel is scheduled to release in 2009 by Red Rose Publishing (mainstream fiction).

Lisa lives and writes in Northern Virginia with her husband, three children, a couch potato of a dog, and two red-eared slider turtles.

You can visit Lisa Lipkind Leibow at www.LLLeibow.com and www.LisaLeibow.blogspot.com

Jan 15, 2010

Learning to Plan, Planning to Learn by Sarah Parker

My name is Sarah Parker, and I'm pleased to be meeting you! I've written six novels in the last three years, though none are published. I am embarking on a journey of discovery where I re-learn the ropes of writing. Welcome to the ride! I'm an apprentice wordsmith, exploring ideas and systems to help me to do what I like to do best - write!

I read on Lisa Dempster's blog recently that the trick to being successful is to identify the things you like doing, and then find ways to get to do them. I've learnt a lot about how I write in the last few years, and about which parts give me the most pleasure. I learnt that I love wordcounts, and that I love the creative process of writing. I learnt that it can take me a while to really get going, but once I am fully immersed in writing a novel, I am on fire. I call it dancing on the precipice - a heady whirlwind of excitement and creative fervour, consuming all of my time, energy and emotion. This is the best part of writing novels to me right now, and this is the part I want to work on reaching more often!

To attain this goal, I am currently working very hard on learning how to plan, plot and construct before I start work. I am learning to create a skeleton around which to build flesh. The parts of the novels that excite me the most end up being the parts that are more well rounded, well thought out and developed within the finished draft, so I want to create a system whereby I get to do some of this in advance, rather than during the creative process. I like to fantasize favourite scenes, imagining every detail, every word, every action, until it's concrete in my head, and then I pour words onto the page. I hope to be able to make conscious decisions about points of view, plot, characters, pacing and tension before I allow my creative mind release.

I'm doing this by workshopping ideas before I start work, by reading critically, and learning from it. I'm doing this by writing out far more plot ideas, character ideas, world building ideas and beginnings than I can possibly use, and examining the way I construct them and how people respond to the ideas within them. I am doing this by communicating with others who understand my language.

Every one has different habits they are trying to stop, or change, or manage differently. I'm trying to learn new ways to prepare for novels, so I'm less of a pants-er and more of a planner. What habits do you have that you wish to change, and what are you doing about them?

***

Sarah Parker writes erotica and fantasy novels, has far too many blogs and journals and likes to write fast. Currently she is working on a fantasy trilogy. She has a short story published in Menage A Trois, but is more comfortable working on novel length stories. She is also a part of the Last Short Story Project. She writes as SarahP on the Saucy Sisters blog, Celestine Lyons for her wordcounts, Cali0pe for her garden tracking, Callisto Shampoo for her every day thoughts, and here as Sarah Parker.

Jan 14, 2010

Why We Write What We Write by Bob and Kaye




Why We Write What We Write



Writing covers a whole lot of territory from the Bible to the Kama Sutra, Mein Kampf to The Bobbsey Twins, and infinite texts in between.

Money, passion, propaganda, revenge, fame, power . . . the multiple and complex reasons for writing sound like the ingredients for a steamy potboiler.

So why do we – each of us – cover the particular territory that we do?

Unfortunately, survival comes to mind. Oh, we can write our passion, but can we sell it?

And even if we're independently wealthy, not selling it will mean not sharing it. Which would seem to be the main point for having written it in the first place.

Now, when passion and money go together, the problem is solved. Perhaps James Patterson and his ilk truly delight in giving us the sheer entertainment of the mystery novel.

But if you write to pay the rent, are you selling out?

Well, there's a young woman of our acquaintance – formerly a part-time actor, part-time secretary – who, after reading a few romance novels, said, sans passion: 'hey, I can write this crap!'

And so she did. Wittily and well. She is no longer a secretary, part-time or otherwise, and she acts when and as she chooses.

After creating a successful series of delightfully urbane romances, she is now free to write her true passion, historical fiction – which she also does wittily and well.

That is, if she can be said to have sold out, in the end she got what she paid for.

And, thanks to those romances, she also got an agent, and with that agent, a means of seeing what she writes show up instantly on Amazon and in Barnes & Noble.

That is, she can now JUST WRITE! Is that Nirvana or what?

So what's our point? Well, it may seem morally uplifting to be a pure writer starving in a garret.

But if what you write never sees the light of day, who will be morally uplifted? Or educated. Or entertained. Or propagandized. As the case may be.

So perhaps the path to writing our passion – if we want to share that passion – may require a few backroads and alleys to get to our goal.

Is this selling out?

No. Just selling. Which, really, is not a dirty word. It just means that our clever little letter combinations are now available for other human beings to see. And isn't that why we wrote them?


***

Bob Brooker and Kaye O'Dougherty have been adventuring together for a lot of years now. They first met at a recording studio on 42nd Street. Yes, that 42nd Street. They recorded a commercial for E.J. Korvette's, who went out of business soon thereafter.

Bob is an old saloon singer who, as Bobby Brookes, recorded for Victor and Capital back in the day. Kaye has trouble carrying a tune in a bucket. Nevertheless, over the years, as Brooker and O'Dougherty, the two have collaborated on a variety of theater projects, performing, writing, directing, managing, and producing. In keeping with the changing times, they have even created a cyber alter-ego named eBobb.

Recently, Bob and Kaye both took long-overdue turns at being rather mature college kids. Kaye now holds a Bachelors Degree in the Humanities from St. Peter's College in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Bob was graduated magna cum laude from Montclair State University with a BA in Theater, and is a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.

You can visit their website by going to FootballforLovers.com or their blog by clicking here.

Jan 13, 2010

Why We Write by Bob and Kaye



Why We Write



Well, sure. It would be great to have a bestseller, buy a condo on a lush tropical island . . . hey, maybe even buy the lush tropical island. Then write on undisturbed while your staff handled all the tedious day-to-day chores, and you sipped your afternoon Jack Daniels on the rocks, soda back, while lolling in your pool.

Of course, you could still do all this, maybe even throw in a pied a tier in Paris with a big screen plasma TV, if you won the lottery. So. Does that mean it's all about the money? Well, maybe a little bit. But if that were the whole answer, you'd probably do better focusing on bond trading or re-packaging risky mortgages.

What is it, then, that compels us to write?

Perhaps it's what we suspect may be the reason we exist at all. Original Energy - or God, if you will - would seem to have been full and complete in and of Itself/Herself. And Perfection, one would think, has no need of additives.

Yet, here we are.

Likewise, if you were complete and full to bursting, do you think that would be enough? Let's take the positive approach and say you were full to bursting with love. Wouldn't you want someone to give that love to?

So, like we said: here we are.

And when you're full to bursting with an idea, isn't it kind of the same thing? Somehow, however great or big or brilliant the idea may be, it's just not enough to have it. You want to share it.

"In the beginning was the Word." Is it heard now in music, seen now in paintings and sculptures? And perhaps read now in our multifoliate scribblings.

How grand is that!?!


***

Bob Brooker and Kaye O'Dougherty have been adventuring together for a lot of years now. They first met at a recording studio on 42nd Street. Yes, that 42nd Street. They recorded a commercial for E.J. Korvette's, who went out of business soon thereafter.

Bob is an old saloon singer who, as Bobby Brookes, recorded for Victor and Capital back in the day. Kaye has trouble carrying a tune in a bucket. Nevertheless, over the years, as Brooker and O'Dougherty, the two have collaborated on a variety of theater projects, performing, writing, directing, managing, and producing. In keeping with the changing times, they have even created a cyber alter-ego named eBobb.

Recently, Bob and Kaye both took long-overdue turns at being rather mature college kids. Kaye now holds a Bachelors Degree in the Humanities from St. Peter's College in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Bob was graduated magna cum laude from Montclair State University with a BA in Theater, and is a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.

You can visit their website by going to FootballforLovers.com or their blog by clicking here.

Jan 12, 2010

Where We Write: Why Where We Write Is the Heart of the Matter by Bob and Kaye




Typing away on a computer keyboard. Curled up in an easy chair with a yellow legal pad. On a park bench with a spiral notebook. Sitting in a saloon jotting thoughts on a cocktail napkin.

We've done it all. And you could probably add your own Favorite Places to the list. Maybe, like us, those places tend to be messy with coffee-stained notes piled everywhere. Or maybe they're organized and Spartan. Although that's one we haven't tried.

We've even heard that Sam Shepard began writing his plays on any available scraps of paper.

But from Bangladesh to Berlin, Manhattan to Maui, what these places have in common is really what’s central to the enterprise. We can only and ever write from the sole perspective of human beings on Planet Earth, all – from billionaire to pauper – viewing the spectacle via the same limited five senses.

Consider this: if you, as a sighted being, found yourself on an island where the inhabitants were all born without eyes, how could you possibly explain sight?

Perhaps more to the point, if these same inhabitants apprehended the world in some way other than our five senses, how could they explain that to us?

In short, not only do we not know what we don't know, but if it requires anything beyond our five senses, we can't know it.

It's like the sign in the subway station that says, "You are here." Only "here" is really everywhere, and all there is.

For us, anyway.

Of course, we know that certain creatures – the birds and the bees and your average hound dog – perceive what we cannot. Heck, for all we know, there may be actual other creatures cavorting around us whose energy moves too quickly for us to see. We read in one of Dr. Chopra's books that a snail sees so slowly that if there were, say, an apple in front of him (the snail, that is), and we reached down to pick it up, the snail would not see us doing it. He would only see that the apple had disappeared. A sort of snail miracle.

And even though inventions such as microscopes and telescopes have increased what we can apprehend, that's still just super-sizing a particular pre-existing sense.

So given that we are all right her together, be it in tent or tenement, mansion or mobile home, apprehending away with the same five senses on this same little planet, isn't it extraordinary that we can manage to see the same things so very, very differently? Abortion rights, universal health care, same-sex marriage, the existence of a deity, medium, rare or well-done?

Actually, this whole apprehension thing makes us think of a mob of people all standing in the same space looking at the same abstract painting. So
we really shouldn't be surprised.

Years ago when we were visiting the Guggenheim in NYC, we saw a painting titled Nude Descending a Staircase by Marcel Duchamp. Now, given that he himself titled his own painting, we have to assume Mr. Duchamp meant to depict the items delineated therein. But cock our heads though we might, we couldn't see the nude.

Although we did see the staircase.

***

Bob Brooker and Kaye O'Dougherty have been adventuring together for a lot of years now. They first met at a recording studio on 42nd Street. Yes, that 42nd Street. They recorded a commercial for E.J. Korvette's, who went out of business soon thereafter.

Bob is an old saloon singer who, as Bobby Brookes, recorded for Victor and Capital back in the day. Kaye has trouble carrying a tune in a bucket. Nevertheless, over the years, as Brooker and O'Dougherty, the two have collaborated on a variety of theater projects, performing, writing, directing, managing, and producing. In keeping with the changing times, they have even created a cyber alter-ego named eBobb.

Recently, Bob and Kaye both took long-overdue turns at being rather mature college kids. Kaye now holds a Bachelors Degree in the Humanities from St. Peter's College in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Bob was graduated magna cum laude from Montclair State University with a BA in Theater, and is a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.

You can visit their website by going to FootballforLovers.com or their blog by clicking here.

Jan 11, 2010

Writing Through the Malaise! By Lisa Heidke

Writing Through the Malaise!

There are days when I’d rather jog ten kilometres than sit at my computer and write. (And I hate jogging!) On those days I really have to force myself to focus. I do the usual – check emails, Facebook, twitter and online news. But I give myself a half hour limit (or forty-five minutes if I’m feeling generous) and then I’ll start or continue writing a scene which I think will be easy. In other words, when I’m feeling lazy or uninspired, I’ll go for the easiest option to get my word count up for the day. I’ll write new scenes or perhaps research a character.

When I am writing a first draft I have a daily word count of 2000 words that I try to stick to, five days a week. That way I find the momentum builds and an interesting plot and complex characters develop (hopefully) and I find I get into a rhythm and pace I’m comfortable with.

I tell myself that when I’m finished for the day, I can read the next chapter from a book I’m currently reading. I also offer myself treats like a chocolate croissant or glass of wine...basically I bribe myself.

And I keep telling myself, I don’t care what you write, just write something! As the saying goes, you can’t edit a blank page.

I have just completed Nanowrimo (November 2009) and found it a great exercise in discipline and motivation. Every day during November I forced myself to write 1700 words. The motivation was the desire to win the competition and produce 50,000 words (all different) at the end.

I think when you’re feeling uninspired, it’s a good idea to look at your long term objectives as well as the short term treats like a shower and sleep. I keep saying to myself, once I have completed my first draft of 80,000 I will have written a whole novel.

Then the fun really begins with the re-reading and editing. It’s a huge sense of achievement.

I work from home during school hours, during the school term. Nanowrimo was so good for me because I knew it would be the last burst of extended creativity before my children started summer holidays. When they’re at home I still check my emails and update my website and blog etc but I’ve made a deal with them that I won’t lock myself away for hours in my office and ignore them. Sometimes it’s a hard promise to keep, so no matter where I am I keep a notebook and pen handy just in case I have a brilliant idea (Rarely happens.).

In the first draft, I think it’s important to enjoy the process, to understand that you are in control of a completely make-believe world...you alone control the characters and what they look like, how they speak and what they do. It’s a fascinating journey and I love not knowing what’s going to happen to my characters next. Writing is a great adventure.

Lisa Heidke
http://www.lisaheidke.com/

***

After growing up in Brisbane, I ran away to Sydney, via London, and worked in book and magazine publishing. After many years living in the inner west, I was surprised one morning to wake up and find myself married with three children and living on the North Shore.

I’m not one of those people who’ve always wanted to write a novel...okay, I am one of those people. But it wasn’t until a few years ago I seriously challenged myself to do something about it. In fact, it was during an alcohol fuelled New Year’s Eve party where friends had been discussing the merits of a newly published novel.

‘I could write that,’ I blurted to anyone who’d listen. I’ve long forgotten the title of the book from that night, but the idea of writing my own novel, quickly became my New Year’s resolution. The next morning my husband poked me in the ribs, force fed me two Nurofen + and pointed me in the direction of the computer. I also have a vague recollection of him quietly sniggering.

I thought it would be easy. Why not? I had some ideas, so set myself up with several ‘how to’ books, a corner of an overcrowded spare room I could call my own - and was filled with great enthusiasm—confident that at the following New Year’s Eve do, I’d be one of the very few who’d managed to keep their resolution. I'd have written my first novel and would be well on my way to publication.

In my dreams! That was eight long years ago.

Along the way, This Wife’s Life was short listed for the Varuna/HarperCollins Manuscript Awards in 2005, and then in 2006, Lucy Springer’s Story was short listed. With a hell of a lot more writing, rewriting, editing, and several buckets of tears, Lucy Springer’s Story morphed into what is now Lucy Springer Gets Even. LSGE is available at your local bookshop now.

Meanwhile, This Wife's Life has been rewritten to become What Kate did Next. What Kate did Next will be available in book shops from late December 2009.




Jan 8, 2010

Never Stop Dreaming by Shiela Stewart

Never Stop Dreaming

So you heard me rant about my lack of work space now let me tell you about my accomplishments despite my lack of office.

Four years ago I was a wife and mother of three with a dream. I had a wealth of stories written and plenty more begging to be released. Then my wonderful hubby helped me get the courage to look for a publisher. But let’s go back a few more years shall we to see how it all came to fruition.

When my children were little, my husband worked in a mine and his schedule took him away from home for an entire week, every other week. So I became both mom and part-time dad. While he was gone, I needed a release from my daily stress of being both mom and dad, raising three small children.

So I began writing. I had always written stories, but after getting married and having children, my time was a little limited. I wrote the occasional poem and stories for my kids, but my true love for writing was pushed to the backburner.

So when my hubby was gone and the kids were in bed, being lonely and stressed, I began writing the stories that were fighting for release inside my mind. What I wrote, however, was not always pretty and romantic. I wrote about possessed houses, ghosts coming back for revenge and innocent people being abducted and tortured. Some might say it was pent up frustrations that led to those stories, and that may be true, but these were the types of stories I had always written about. I loved a good suspenseful or scare the pants off me book.

For years I wrote the stories that popped into my head or came to me in my dreams. And as the children grew, so did my collection of tales. I often thought how great it would be to have others read my work, to have them published, but I never thought I was good enough. So I kept writing with a dream I didn’t see every become real.

Then four years ago, my husband decided it was time I looked into getting my work published. Again, I was hesitant but he pushed and pushed and finally contacted a local publisher to ask how I would go about submitting work. They sent me a book filled with publishers and their genre and so I began to look into it. Eager to get started, I began sending out manuscripts to publishers all over the world. And each time, received a rejection.

I was nearly about to give up when I found a writing contest on-line. I thought to myself, “I’ll submit a story to this contest but if it’s rejected, I’ll stop.” I figured it was the Gods or fate telling me I wasn't good enough. To my surprise, I received an email stating I was one of the top three candidates. It as the boost I needed and even though I didn’t win, it was enough to give me the confidence to submit more work. And again, to my surprise, one of my books was accepted and published.

Now let’s come back to the present.

Since that day when my first book was accepted and published, I have managed to write more than twenty books, and published fifteen. I have four stand-alone books, a series of three books and a series of eight books. Not bad for a person who didn’t think she was good enough to become a published author. So despite my lack of office space, or privacy to work, I have managed to crank out some pretty awesome books.

My dream now is to have my very own office, and like my dream of becoming published, I know someday it will come true.


***
Raised on a rural farm in Saskatchewan, Shiela Stewart relied on her vivid imagination to fill her days. Never did she realize that her need to tell a story would someday lead to becoming a published romance author. In the fall of two thousand and six, Shiela published her very first book and hasn’t stopped since.

When not writing, Shiela spends time with the love of her life, William and their three children. She has a strong affection for animals which is evident in the five cats, one dog, three turtles and ten fish she owns. Some of her passions aside from writing are drawing and painting and proudly displays her artwork in murals in her home.

Her favorite time of day is sunset and loves to stargaze.

Website: www.shielasbooks.ca


Jan 7, 2010

Office Space Wanted by Shiela Stewart

Office Space Wanted

I am an author without a home. I am looking for a work space that I do not have to share with anyone else. Someplace I can go, shut the door and write until my heart’s content. A place that when the door is shut children know not to bother me and ask me what there is to eat, or can they have this or that, or ask me to side with them over their sibling in whatever fight they’ve gotten into this time. I need a spot that allows music to be played as I cannot work without it. I don’t need anything fancy, just something to call my own. If you have such a spot and would be willing to let me take it over, please, call me A.S.A.P.

Three years ago my husband and I sold our small 900 square foot house and bought a much bigger 1900 square foot, 4 bedroom split level home. I was overjoyed. It was huge, so much more room and…and…I would finally have an office. Yeah….that never happened. The way things were supposed to work out is that our oldest son, 19 at the time, would move out on his own. But…as life so often does, it threw us a curveball. The company my son was working for folded and left him out on the cold. What was I to do? I couldn’t push him out on his own without a job. So bye bye office. Sigh…

Okay, I thought. This isn’t a problem. All my children are older now, 13, 16 and 20, they’ll be away during the day and that will give me plenty of time to write. So I hunker down in the living room, laptop in hand and begin to work. Yeah…NOT! The kids come home for lunch and of course, ask me what they can eat. I tell them whatever they find is there’s and try to go back to the plot I was working on. Except…they click the TV on. AAHHHH… So I say, “Hello, working here.”

“Oh, right. Well, do you mind if I watch TV?”

I thought I had clued them in to the fact that no, watching TV right now was not a good idea. But at this point my thoughts are toasts so I give up and go make myself some lunch. An hour later I try to get back to work only to have my eldest son come up to ask what’s for lunch. Sigh…

I love my children dearly but sometimes I wish they understood that writing is not just a past time or something I dabble at. It is my work. So my wonderful and very supportive hubby suggests I try working in our bedroom. Okay, I can try that. So I buy a special chair complete with a drawer beneath the seat for my notes and so forth, he even makes a sign for the door that say’s, “Author at Work” For the most part, it works. The children knock on my door, ask if I’m busy. “Um…what does the door say? Author at work so yeah, busy.” But I’m a mom so I say, “not at all. What’s up?” And they reply, “What is there for lunch?” AAAHHHH!!!

But the children aren’t the only problem with me working in the bedroom. My hubby has a computer in there so occasionally he’ll go into the bedroom to play his games, which, are loud and always involve shooting, explosions or people shouting out orders. How am I supposed to work on a couple who are about to engage in sexual activity when someone is screaming, “Intruder to the left. Take him down.” It kind of ruins the mood. So I trudge out to the living room but someone is watching TV. Where else can I go?

Nowhere. This is my life and as flawed as it may be, I love it. And as crazy as things get, I still manage to create wonderful stories and even dedicate them to my hubby and children who, someday, might figure out, I NEED MY OWN SPACE.

***
Raised on a rural farm in Saskatchewan, Shiela Stewart relied on her vivid imagination to fill her days. Never did she realize that her need to tell a story would someday lead to becoming a published romance author. In the fall of two thousand and six, Shiela published her very first book and hasn’t stopped since.

When not writing, Shiela spends time with the love of her life, William and their three children. She has a strong affection for animals which is evident in the five cats, one dog, three turtles and ten fish she owns. Some of her passions aside from writing are drawing and painting and proudly displays her artwork in murals in her home.

Her favorite time of day is sunset and loves to stargaze.

Website: www.shielasbooks.ca


Jan 6, 2010

Once Upon a Time? by Fiona Palmer

Once Upon a Time?

How to start that very first sentence on your first draft.

Well that is usually the first thing that comes to me…luckily. I have already written out the first two pages of my third novel because it came to me in the car on our three and a half hour trip home from Perth. This is usually where my ideas start and then they build from there. What will this girl do, what will happen next? Then I like to draft up a synopsis, or outline of the main things in the book.

From time to time, another idea may come up and I’ll slot it in somewhere. I have a very distinct idea of how the story will go and I very rarely change it. I may add extra little dramas in here and there to keep the story exciting but the outcome is still the same.

I start writing from chapter one and work my way through till the last chapter.
At times you come to those horrible parts in your story where you have to fill in before you can get to the next exciting bit. Most times I just dribble out rubbish, just to have something on the page so I can get to the bit I want to write. Half the time I find that what I end up writing isn’t so bad after all and more often than not stays there. (The key is to keep tying, just let stuff flow!)

I’m a big lover of books and especially movies so plots come relatively easily. But don’t ask me about grammar and spelling…I was away from school when they were teaching that! I like getting to the end of a first draft, it’s exciting but only for a day…then the panic sets in…is it crap?!

Then I’m not happy with it and find it’s not flowing right, there’s tension missing here and with a few extra chapters added I usually end up feeling a bit better before sending it off to a Publisher to get their views.

Main thing I can offer to others is just to keep writing, no matter what…even if it is crap…it’s a start!

***

My name if Fiona Palmer and I write Rural Romance. I live in the tiny town of Pingaring in Western Australia, (near Wave Rock).

I’m thirty, with two small kids aged 6 and 4. I had my first novel printed with Penguin and I’ve just finished my first draft on my second novel. Please visit my website www.fionapalmer.com

Jan 5, 2010

Typing Time by Author Fiona Palmer

Typing Time

This is my writing space. It’s not overly appealing and it’s next to the kids playroom so lucky for me I’m a mother that can tune out. As for set times that I write…well it’s more of when I can fit it in. I work nine hour days, four days a week, sometimes more and have two small children, one who’s only at school two days a week.

I find if I have an hour up my sleeve I will make myself sit in front of the computer – I may not feel like it but time is valuable. My husband worries that I’d be just writing crap when I make myself write, but it’s crap I can go back over later and change. To me it’s important to keep the words going, even if it means dribbling dull lifeless words - eventually I will get back to it and add some colour and flair.

If I get a bit of writers block I will usually go do some house chores and let my mind wander on ideas and usually by the end of the washing, mopping etc, I’ve got the next chapter planned out. If I’m really stuck, I will brainstorm with my mum. (Husbands not into romance stories – he doesn’t read unless it’s a golf magazine)

I get most of my inspiration from the place I live. A small country town in Western Australia…and when I say small there are five houses, one which is mine, a shop and a hall. Our little school closed down years ago. But it’s the small community lifestyle that is so wonderful. The characters you meet, brought out by the hardships they share.

I love the country way of life and I get so inspired just by walking around the back paddock, watching another amazing sunset or sunrise, watching headers harvesting golden grains and sitting with the farmers under the large gumtree whilst having a few drinks at the end of the day. That’s where you hear some of the best stories!

I’m very passionate about our way of life so it’s easy for me to write about it. I want the reader to feel what I’m feeling, to experience the sunsets and smell the eucalyptus in the air. I want them to clearly picture the heat haze over the top of a wheat crop and get the tingle when you smell the first rain on dry soil.

So, for me, my characters come naturally and they soon become my friends. I cry when I write about their loses or funerals and smile when they are happy. ( I must look like a real twit sitting at the computer, sniffing with tears streaming down my face.)

I’m waiting for the day someone sees my puffy tear stained face, ‘Oh, what’s wrong?’

‘I’m fine, I just had to kill off a character!”

The joy’s of writing…but I wouldn’t have it any other way.


***

My name if Fiona Palmer and I write Rural Romance. I live in the tiny town of Pingaring in Western Australia, (near Wave Rock). I’m thirty, with two small kids aged 6 and 4. I had my first novel printed with Penguin and I’ve just finished my first draft on my second novel. Please visit my website www.fionapalmer.com

Jan 4, 2010

My Outdoor Office by Australian Author Fleur McDonald

My Outdoor Office



As much as I prefer to write indoors, there are sometimes in my life, I just can't. Harvest is an especially busy time for us, so pack up my laptop, put it in the back of my ute and use an old fuel drum as a chair! I can tell you, that when the drum gets hot, gives a whole different meaning to 'hot to trot!'

In this photo, I was cleaning graining, which didn't require a lot of brain power - just keeping the augers and chutes clear - so it enabled me to write quite easily.

I am an author of two books, Red Dust was published in May 09 and Blue Skies is due out in April 2010. My stories are based in the country and I tend to think of them as mysteries, although some people want to lob them into the romantic section - I'm not so sure about that!

My blog consists of my writing life, my farming life and everything in between - I try to put photos up with every blog, to help the reader visualise what I'm talking about and I've got to the point, that I also include videos, if I'm able to.

My writing day consists of time snatched in between racing around for the farm, two kids and a husband and numerous farm animals and pets that need my undivided attention! I tend to write very early in the mornings, or late at night. I actually find that writing my blogs, help me warm up for my writing time.

I hope you visit my blog - I'd love to see you and as from January, I'll be giving away prizes - all who leave a comment over the month, will go into the draw. First prize up for grabs is a Queensland Writers Taster pack, which includes a three month membership to them. See you there!

***


Born and bred in Orroroo, the mid-north of South Australia, Fleur's Mum and Dad were fuel distributors and with her dad she spent some of her childhood in the fuel trucks heading north, meeting all sorts of wonderful Northern characters.

The first year out of school she headed to the southeast of SA to do some jillarooing and then went to WA for her second year. She met her now husband when she first went to WA. In 1994 she attended Marcus Oldham Farm Management College to study Agribusiness.

They now farm 8000 acres, about 110km east of Esperance. Prime lambs and cattle being their main enterprises, but they do a small amount of cropping.

They also run two studs — Angus Cattle and White Suffolk Sheep.

They have two children, Rochelle, eight, and Hayden, seven.

She is the author of Wilder Eukaplytus, Red Dust and the upcoming Blue Skies.

You can learn more about Fleur on her website: http://fleurmcdonald.com/

Jan 2, 2010

Welcome to Life in the First Draft!

Hello everyone and welcome to the brand new blog: Life in the First Draft

To have anything to work with and edit, you must first have a first draft. Half the struggle of the writer is just getting that first draft completed. Once you have that taken care of, you at least have a skeleton to work with.

So it's no wonder so many people get stuck in the first draft - sometimes before they even write the first word of it.

This blog is dedicated to everyone from aspiring writers to published authors who have ever gotten stuck in the first draft. Whether it be finding the time and space to write or how to wrap up a spectacular ending, this blog will feature guest posts to help you out with whatever you need.

Of course, to keep this blog going, we need those helpful guest posts!

Please refer to the What I'm Looking For post if you have any questions on submitting your work to this blog.

Of course, if you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment on this post.

Be sure to come back Monday when we feature the first of many talented authors, the one and only Fleur McDonald.