Tag Archives: journalism

A Change of Approach

Last week I hit a bit of a brick wall with the book I’m writing.  I’ve realised that,  rather ironically considering how much I enjoy travelling, I really don’t enjoy writing the ‘travel’ sections of stories – how characters A and B get to C. Something which you can in some circumstances simply skip altogether.  However, when the story is one about a series of interlinked worlds, it seems rather important to describe those links.  I just get rather impatient and can’t wait to get to the main story again … and that leads me to a bout of good old Writer’s Block.

However, I think I found a solution … or at least it did in my case!  Two week’s (of unemployment!) in, and I’ve now hit 30,000 words.  Obviously, their calibre is still to be decided, but they are words, on a page, and for that I’m proud/

In fact, it was actually words on a page which got me past the infamous Block, because I decided to change my approach to writing for a few days.

I write in  Word documents.  Each chapter is a simple Word document, and then sections are compiled as folders on my laptop.  I spent my life writing on a computer screen.  And so I mixed it up a bit.  I printed out my chapters.

For a start, actually being able to physically touch the pages of my work reminded me of what I had achieved.  30,000 words is about 76 pages of print.  That’s a pretty hefty weight in your palms … even more so if you print it out double-spaced (which is actually something I would recommend if you have a lot of editing to do!)

But also, seeing the writing in a different way – as printed pages, as opposed to a never-ending scrolling computer screen really helped me look at it in a fresh light.  I ended up editing everything I had written, and being inspired enough to go straight to writing another three chapters.

So if you’re struggling with a writing hurdle of some kind – whether it’s a travel section of your novel, or just simply a scene that you still can’t get to sound quite right – why don’t you try looking at it in a different way?  Print it out, type it up, or simply copy it out again … You never know what the results might be!

C-C xxx

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Feature on Elli Writes

Thanks to journalist, author, and fellow blogger Liz Carlton for this lovely feature on her blog ‘Elli Writes‘.

And wow! – only just saw the front page of her blog, and I’m everywhere … thank you so much Liz, I feel very honoured!!

C-C xx

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In the Spirit of Competition …

Ok, so I have a couple of excuses as to why I’ve been AWOL from the world of blogging for the past two weeks.  The first is that I’m finally back in England, after two and a half years travelling, so things are a little ‘abnormal’ to say the least.  The second is that, after two and a half years of dragging my poor old MacBook around the world, I figured it was time it got a bit of TLC, so my laptop has been in the Apple Store for the past fortnight.

But my main excuse is that my writing has been concentrated elsewhere.  Because I’m revelling in the phenomenon that is being a citizen of the country you are living in (quite a novelty for me) … and entering competitions!

Now, I know the world is for the most part computerised, however you’ll notice in the small print of most competitions, that even if they appear to be simply online, they normally require you to be a citizen or resident of the country where the competition originated.  This is especially prevalent in magazine competitions, where even if a magazine is global, like Marie Claire, the competitions are only local.

So now that I’m back HOME, I’ve been making the most of being British and entering a ton of writing competitions!!!

I’ve talked in the past about using writing exercises, particularly when you’re feeling a bit stuck.  I have to admit to having been brainstorming an idea for a new book for the past month, and feeling like not all the pieces have clicked in place yet.  So it’s great to have a diversion which exercises my good old ‘writing muscle’. 

My two favourites this past week have been the Grazia writing competition, called ‘The Deadline’, and a scheme by Marie Claire to pair young aspiring women up with successful role models in their chosen business.

The first competition centred around a pre-written paragraph, by the writer Kate Mosse, which you were required to transform into an entire first chapter.  The paragraph was very different to my normal style of writing, and required me to think out of the box I’ve become most comfortable in, which was a great challenge, and something which kept me scribbling for a good couple of days.

The second competition is of a different nature.  The Inspire & Mentor scheme could provide me with a best-selling author as a mentor, which is pretty damn exciting!  The scheme is an extension of the successful Prince’s Trust scheme which aims to help underprivileged women survive and succeed in life. However readers of the magazine Marie Claire can also benefit from the guidance of a professional mentor.

As a young woman still very much trying to find her feet in the world of writing and publishing, I think initiatives like this one are brilliant.

Right … I’m off to find some more fun competitions 😉 And speaking of competitions, if you haven’t already, check out yesterday’s post about Elli Write’s April Competition.

Cheers,

C-C xxx

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Falling into the ‘Forced Writing Trap’

As I trawl through the offerings of other ‘writer bloggers’ on WordPress, I regularly come across two personal niggles.

The first is people blogging simply to tell the world EITHER that they are feeling totally uninspired, and can’t write a single word, OR to report exactly how inspired they are feeling, by telling us all EXACTLY how many words/pages they have written that day.

And that is ALL they write in a blog post!

Really?  Is this the kind of stuff you want to waste your words on?  There are only 24 hours in a day … both yours, and mine … please don’t waste them with blog posts like that!  Even if I were your Mum I wouldn’t want to know this kind of stuff!

I’d rather read an opinion, a paragraph of pose, a poem …  Think about it – your blog-post has a short shelf life on the WordPress ‘Recently Posted’ Writing Page. Don’t put off future readers by catching their eye with a mundane post like that! They won’t ever come back!  Complaints about writer’s block, or self-congratulatory back-patting over a couple of paragraphs of writing should be reserved for the private sphere.

Either get a journal … or if you still insist on addressing the blogosphere, then turn it into something positive. Write about how you cure your personal writer’s block, or what helps inspire you on ‘good writing days’ …  At least a reader can take something from those kinds of posts.

My second niggle is what I like to call the  ‘Forced Writing Trap’.

While I understand that every now and again writers may need a metaphorical kick up the bum to write, I’m really against setting a specific goal of words to write each day.

Like any author, I go through periods of hyper-creativity, and phases of zero-creativity. I have days where I stare at a page and am happy to complete a full sentence, and other days where I’m forced to stop simply because my lap-top battery has run out, or it’s 4am and I’m meant to be up again in three hours.

But rather than reprimand myself for not making a word quota, or seeing a super-creative day as meaning I don’t have to write for another three day, I prefer to simply roll with the punches, and treat each day as it comes.

Writing a novel shouldn’t be a series of daily battles, but one long war.  Sometimes that means you don’t write for a week, and other times it means all you do for three days is hack away at your laptop.

I can understand that committing to a ‘5000 words per day’ regime may discipline you to write … I just think that where a novel is concerned, if you insist on writing 5000, or however many, words a day, every day, you are often going to produce 5000 words of crap!

On my zero-creativity days, if I were to force my novel forward 5000 words, what I’d most probably be doing would be setting my book back at least 2 days of re-writing.

Instead, on those days when I sit down at the computer, and can’t see a path through the metaphorical trees, I find other tasks.  I might do administrative chores linked to my book – like numbering and heading pages, or keeping track of the developing stories or character profiles.  Or if there’s a particular topic the book requires me to know about, I might do some research.  Another positive thing I often do when I’m not feeling creative enough to write, is to edit.  I look back over previous chapters, and sometimes simply re-reading a chapter or two will get me into the correct frame to continue with the story.

And if that still doesn’t work … I don’t push it.  I read something else, or heaven forbid … DON’T DO ANYTHING!  Writing shouldn’t be a chore.  We do it because we love it.  It’s the future career we’ve chosen for ourselves … and for the first couple of years at least, we’ve chosen it not for monetary recompense, but for a creative outlet.  So why would you force that outlet?  Shouldn’t it be fun?  And shouldn’t you be proud of what you write?

If I read 5000 words I’ve written, I want to feel proud of them.  I want them to be polished and perfect, and the best 5000 words I could have used to describe that particular scene.  I don’t simply want them to be five thousand random words … because I NEEDED the word count reader to say ‘5000’.

Just to clarify, this isn’t me complaining about those of you blogging everyday.  As I’ve explained before, in The Author, The Journalist and The Blogger I address fiction writing very differently to blog writing, and don’t have any problem with people resolving to write a blog post every day, because the blogs stand alone each day, and a bad day of blogging won’t wreck a whole story.  However, saying that, I will obviously object if all your ‘blog every day’ does is tell me how many words you have or haven’t written that day 😉

On a personal note – I signed up to Script Frenzy … which some might see as a ‘Forced Writing Trap’ – 100 words of a script in a month.  But with Script Frenzy, I simply see it as a task you could give yourself a month to complete.  An inspiration, rather than a set word count governing your day.  And in that light, I have to admit to taking it rather liberally so far … In the absence of Final Draft, I’ve been struggling to form my words into an acceptable script format.  As a result, this month, whenever I’ve felt the need to write, I’ve found myself turning to blog posts instead of the script.  But rather than punishing myself for not fulfilling my ‘Script Frenzy’ commitment, I’m simply happy to be creating something legible.

Should I tell you how many words I wrote today now? 😉

C-C xxx

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The Author Brand

One of the lovely comments on my Rebirth, Rebranding, Re-invention post mentioned ‘establishing your writer’s brand’ and it got me thinking…  (Thanks Jess for the inspiration!)

No matter what stage of your career you’re currently at, being an author is a very different profession thanks to the age of the internet.

Authors used to bask in the shadow of anonymity.  Even without a pen-name, they were mere names … perhaps illustrated with a grainy black and white photo and an aloof bio on the back cover of their novels.  ‘C-C Lester lives with her cat Felix and her budgie Steve in Battersea, and enjoys strolls along the beach. ‘

(I don’t really… before you start Googling 😉 )

But the internet has changed all that.  It’s not only added real-life faces to the grand names … but  it’s also added real-life stories.  Find one person who when you mention J.K. Rowling doesn’t remark on her rags to riches success, and the ‘writing on napkins in coffee shops’ story!

People spend a lot of time with books.  They retreat to them, a private world they can slip in and out of, away from the hustle of a crowded train carriage, or the uncomfortable heat of a parental row.  The characters become treasured friends, and it’s easy to attach similar affection and proximity to the person responsible for creating those characters.  Readers want to know about their authors …

As a reader, I happily confess to reading author bios.  I love the short paragraphs tucked inside book covers.  I like to guess how much the writer has in common with her protagonist, muse over whether I’d like her in real life, and wonder if she’s using a pen name.  I like to know if she’s young or old, pretty or ugly, married or single. I want to be able to put the book in context, to frame the story in a world outside of its pages.

I fully admit it … I’m a nosy reader!

And then, as an aspiring writer, I wonder how hard her path to literary success was.  Did she find an agent as easily as I did?  Were her rejection letters from publishers more inspiring than mine?  How many rejections did she receive?  How old was she when she first got published?  How long did it all take?

Yes … I’m a nosy writer too!

The thing is, whilst some of the answers might be available in the book cover’s rigid biographical paragraph, the internet has provided an even better location to find answers to all those questions … and more!

Obviously there’s the Google-stalker factor, which is something I’ve discussed in previous posts –   see ‘Why Blogging is like Facebook …’ and ‘The Pen Name … a Shield to accompany the Literary Sword?’ .  One carefully worded Google search, and a reader can know an awful lot about his favourite author … provided she doesn’t use a pen name.

(A small aside – Bloggers with pen names BEWARE – I’ve noticed on a lot of comments that your REAL NAME comes up in the email address attached to your blog! )

But where authors are concerned, there’s a far easier way to find out the answers to all your nosey questions … and you’re staring right at it.

Authors blog!  We are creatures of habit, who love to write, and by definition, enjoy touching others with our words, whether fictional or not.  In the age of Twitter and blogging, what better way to reach others with our words, than with the immediacy of the internet?

By blogging, we are opening the fourth wall to our readers.  We are showing them the workings behind the novel – whether it’s just generally the way our minds work, or more specific details about our lives and inspirations.  Author blogs allow you to find the answers to all your nosey questions … how long DID it take her to find an agent?  How many times DID she get rejected?  What did those rejections REALLY say?

But the blogosphere isn’t a one-way street.  It’s interactive.  Not only is the author bearing (selective parts of) her soul to her readers, she’s also enabling them to challenge and question her.  Finally readers are being given the thing they have never had with their favourite authors – dialogue.  And an author’s willingness to partake in such a dialogue may well affect the way her readers see her.

This brings me back to Jess’s initial idea – a writer’s brand.

Think about the world we live in.  Not only is it a world of Twitter and blogging … it’s also a world of PR and Marketing.  And the savvy author needs to bear that in mind … particularly if she writes under a pen name.  Those of us not protected by that particular shield (or like me, who have very brazenly stepped aside from their shield and revealed their true name) can only control to some degree the information available about them on the internet.  But if you’ve created a person, you have full control of the data about that person on the internet.  And even if you haven’t created a person, and are writing as yourself, then it’s wise to think about the things attached to your ‘writer persona’.

By creating this website, I have unwittingly created an author brand.  If you type ‘C-C Lester, author’ into Google, the top four hits link to this blog, and the fifth to my Twitter (which is predominantly based on my blog).  This blog has become C-C Lester, the author.  And hopefully the brand I’ve unwittingly created is an honest and likable one!

I’ve said it before, in ‘Why Blogging is like Facebook …’ and I’ll say it again.  Think about what you write.  As far as we’re aware, the internet is here to stay, and the archives are endless.  So make sure that everything you personally attach to your ‘author brand’ properly represents you as a writer.  It’s also where posts like ‘Get It Write 😉‘ (about grammar and spell-checking) and ‘To Journal … or Not To Journal’ (on making your blog too personal) come in.  In ten years time, when you’re a famous author, do you really want the world to know how much you hate your ex-boyfriend?  Or that you don’t really know where apostrophes go, and have to rely on an editor to tweak such mundane things as grammar?!

Personally, I think it’s exciting!  I like the idea of being more than just an aloof name and a grainy picture on a bookshelf.  The role of authors is changing, and I just hope that my career will enable me to properly experience those changes first-hand.  I hope, in years to come, that my story will be a positive one, and one full of inspiration and interest to my readers.  And that somewhere down the line, I’ll look back at this post and smile at the legacy I began to establish back when I was a ‘nobody’ who simply enjoyed to write 🙂

C-C xxx

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To Journal … or not to Journal?

I’ve always been a diary-keeper.  Since I was fourteen, I’ve religiously kept a journal.  On busy weeks it might just be one entry, on holiday I would write every night.  I wrote about every detail of my life – from the boy I was crushing on, to how fat I was feeling, to what I wanted to be when I grew up…

Thirteen years later, and while I haven’t grown up, stopped crushing on boys, or occasionally feeling fat … I appear to have finally finished journalling.  I kept a diary for eleven years.  There are literally hundreds of them in a box in my attic –   the ins and outs of my youth, documented in page after page of self-absorbed, angst-ridden teenage waffle.  And then I began to write fiction properly … and I stopped writing about my own life.

I guess I just realised that I only need a certain amount of writing in my day-to-day life, and that these days that quota is used up by fiction writing … and now, between books, by blogging.

But the thing is, fiction writing isn’t like writing a journal. For reasons I have discussed in blog posts (see The 7 Sins of Fiction Writing, and Writing From The Heart) in my opinion, the best fiction is just that … fictional.  If you let too much reality tinge the imaginative side of your work, you actually impede your own creativity.

So where should the true outlet for my need to vent be?  Should I use my blog?

Now this is where I may well alienate a large amount of my readership … because I don’t believe that a blog should be an online journal!

Before you block my blogsite, and report me for an improper attitude towards blogging, bear with me.

I’m not saying blogs shouldn’t be about people.  As you’ll have noticed, at least two of the blogs I’ve spoken about in my blog are about people – Mikalee Byerman’s blog about her life after divorce, and ‘The Becoming Year’ – a blog by Abigail about the year she had given herself to make major changes in her life.

What I’m saying is that autobiographical journal-like blogs work when you are detailing a specific area of your life.

Love lives, weight-loss, job issues … all can be interesting and helpful to readers, if sold as just that – a blog about my appalling love life, a blog about my attempts to lose 10 stone, a blog full of notes from my retard boss….

What I don’t agree with, is just keeping a journal online for all the world to see.

Because I don’t really understand why anyone would want to read it?  And why you would want everyone to read it?  Wasn’t that why the diaries we were given as children had crappy decorative locks on them?

I know, in the age of Facebook, that that might seem a rather short-sighted explanation, but Facebook isn’t a journal.  It’s a carefully crafted and editted representation of a person.  It’s the person as they want the outside world to see them. A journal is the person behind that shell.  It is the inner-workings of someone’s mind … and there are too many of these delicate, and self-intrusive blogs on the net.

To be honest, I can’t work out exactly what it is which annoys me about them…

Is it narcissism? Is it that the writer thinks that he or she has such important inner musings that the whole world needs to know about her sex life, AND her weight issues, AND her shopping wish-list?  I genuinely don’t think that even if the diary belonged to a famous person, I would want to know about her blackheads, and new fad diet, and how her Mum had pissed her off that morning!

Is it the writing purist in me? Who feels like writing that is made public should be at least to some degree crafted … no matter what the medium. (see The Author, The Journalist & The Blogger and Get it Write 🙂 )

Or is it just that  I view the ‘blogosphere’ as a giant free magazine? And when I read a magazine or a newspaper, it’s normally the Opinions and the Editorials which I most enjoy reading.  This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy reading about people, because these Comment sections of a newspaper are normally, by definition, the most heavily laced in personal opinion and experience.  However, if I were to open a newspaper and read a stream of consciousness about how the editor or commentator was having a bit of a crappy day, didn’t get an writing done, had period pain and a massive craving for chocolate … then I doubt I would read that paper again.

And so … in my opinion at least … journalling DOES have some place in the blogosphere.  But only within the confines which you yourself craft for your own blog.  If you want to write about your crazy NSA sex life, by all means do so … just make that the focus of your blog, and apply as much care to that writing as you would anything else you distribute into the public eye.

And personal opinion and experience also matter … just keep them  to topic, and try to make something interesting out of it, so the reader isn’t simply reading a litany of reasons as to why your day was pretty mediocre!

C-C xx

 

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Why Blogging is like Facebook …

We all need friends!

Especially when we classify ourselves as writers!  Writing is a lonely ‘profession’ … and the blogosphere (I’m sorry guys, I still hate that word!) has offered us a unique world to interract with common minds around the globe … something which our predecessors could have never dreamed of …

In this way, there are a lot of ways the blogosphere resembles Facebook …

1 People expect you to pay attention

Friendship, whether ‘real’ or virtual, is a two-way street.  No one likes to give more than they take, and this rule applies to blogging, as much as it does to Facebook friendship.  Everyone notices which friends ‘like’ their statuses, and comment on their photos … Facebook has even been programmed to notice these interactions, and dub these people your real ‘Friends’, separating them from your general popularity count.

Blogging is also to some degree reciprocal.  As a blogger, every ‘like’ notification that pops up in your inbox is a minor success, and a comment is the icing on the cake.  But you can’t just sit back and lap up the attention.  You need to give some back!  Start with those who follow your blog, obviously, because it’s only fair.  But then diversify.  Check out other blogs, especially those similar to your own, because by commenting on other peoples’ blogs, you’re not only showing that you care, and that you’re interested in your readers, but you can also draw in readers who might be interested in the stuff you’re writing … because they are writing it too.

See also – Blog Etiquette

2. Friendships Can be Fleeting

It’s important to remember that one comment doesn’t make a guaranteed reader.  And that even a subscription can be revoked.  Facebook friendships can be fleeting … that random girl you shared a bunk with in that hostel in Sydney … that person whose name you thought you recognise, and yet even when you stare at his profile intently, you can’t remember ever meeting.  The ‘Defriend’ button is easy to hit.  And with thousands of blogs out there on every topic imaginable, it’s just as easy to lose your readers.

Just like a Facebook fan, posting status after inane status, it’s easy to lose a blog friend by boring him, or overloading him.  Make sure your posts are relevant to the theme or message of your blog.  For example, if you market your blog as a blog about writing, try to stick to that.  If one post about the logistics of writing a novel drew in the majority of your readers, don’t expect them to be equally effusive about a journal-like entry about your bus trip home.

Hold on to those who count, by staying true to your blog, and writing posts which you feel might interest your most loyal followers.

3. Both Media allow you to Showcase yourself

Facebook photos come with a ‘detag’ option.  If a picture isn’t flattering, you are able to remove all trace of a link back to yourself.  The program allows you to showcase yourself in whatever light you wish to …  And it’s worth applying this same logic to blogging.  Use your blog like a showcase.  Polish your work, think carefully about what you want to write about, and also think carefully about who you are trying to appeal to, and what you want to come of it.  Once you have clear answers to these questions, stick to them.

YOU are in control of your Blog Image.

See also Get it Write!

4. The internet world is smaller than you think …

We’ve all been warned about putting too much information about ourselves up on Facebook … from your full date of birth, to your mother’s maiden name … social networking sites provide the perfect forums for identity theft … if only the thief can find his or her way in.  Blogs are even more accessible … and with enough dedication, it is more than possible to trawl a blog and work out a significant amount of information about someone.  I recently read a comment on a blog post by a girl who worked out her ex-boyfriend was sleeping with her best-friend, simply from reading between the lines of her best friend’s blog.  Be careful, when you’re waxing lyrical, that free-flow writing doesn’t spill one too many secrets.

5.  Dirty Laundry can be easily aired

Continuing on from the last two posts … whilst Facebook DOES allow you to restrict what information comes out about yourself, and what pictures are linked to your profile … if you’re not diligent, the social networking site can be the perfect opportunity for a spot of laundry-flashing.

Remember that, unless written anonymously, your blog can be very easily linked back to you, and the past may come back to repeat itself.  Once you post something on the internet, even if you later delete it, it can still be found.  So again, apply a little caution to what you write. Could your sporadic late-night rant come back to haunt you in later years?

However, there is at least one major way in which Blogging is very much NOT like Facebook …

Facebook allows you to control who sees and comments your profile

As a recent post by one of my favourite ‘new read’s Mikaylee Byerman explains in her post ‘I spy with my little eye … A Blog Stalker?!‘ it can be very easy to get unwanted attention … and in reality, unless you have access to every possible IP address someone might use, it’s extremely difficult to prevent someone from reading and posting comments on a public blog.

At least Facebook allows you to choose your friends, and to firmly block anyone unsavory from even knowing you ‘exist’!

On that note … I hand you the floor … please be kind … else I might have to work out how to ‘de-friend’ you 😉

C-C xx


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