Epiphany

It’s 2020, a new year, another chance to rally our thoughts and achieve clarity for the coming months. I am lucky to belong to a writers group, who meet monthly in my local library. It was a prompt as a homework exercise from December 2019 that gives me today’s post.

I had a choice of two prompts. Epiphany or A Resolution Gone Wrong.

I had a month’s grace to come up with something and, normally I would present something on the day of our meeting. Except, I couldn’t this time.

So what you read below is my offering to my fellow writing friends at the January meeting. It was written two hours before the meeting, while having my grey hairs coloured at the hairdressers.

I really couldn’t turn up with no homework. But I was totally at a loss this time. Read on, and be gentle with your comments. Interestingly, as I wrote this piece/poem, I was not aware it fell under the heading of one of the prompts. It was after I had scribbled the piece down, it struck me, I had, had an epiphany.

Epiphany

I could do it, I told myself.

I could spit them out and not blink an eye.

Tumbling on to the page, filling the white paper with rhythm and tales of now, past and future.

Sentences put together that when read, were music for the soul of those who soaked in them. Inspiring minds dulled by the technology of screens, and those who say they can’t switch off.

I’m their magic button. Forcing some to press time out and enter the worlds I create.

Chapters for them to pore over and, cry, laugh, blaspheme or praise whatever it is I tickle within them.

Books they read and then go ahh… closing the covers on pages of another place and time.

Giving choices.

Making decisions.

Was it good or condemn it to hell in a waste basket and rant over the twelve euro they spent?

But when I sit to toss and tumble word after word out, birthing new life from my mind, it is blank.

Empty.

Barren.

No longer overflowing.

I need to switch off.

Read others words, and bathe in their magic. Fuelling my run down bank of inspiration.

So I shall sit, and listen, and read, and be a part of the world of others.

*****

There you have it, we all need to switch off, give ourselves time to recharge and not feel guilty for doing so.

Happy 2020 and make it a year you enjoy at your pace and calling.

Mary, xx

From Why to How

Since I could walk I have always read, joining my local library when I was five years old. I still enjoy curling up each evening with whatever book I am reading and it is a very important part of my daily routine. Life without books is a horrible thought to me. When I enjoyed a book, I told my friends, shared it with them, written reviews were not something I knew of or where I’d go to write one. My understanding was that journalists for the national newspapers were the ones who got to review books. How times have changed. It is in the past number of years, that access to leaving a written review has appeared with sites like Amazon, Goodreads and other social sites. So is leaving a review important?

Yes, yes, and yes. Not just because I am now an author myself, but it really does help others who read the same genre as yourself or maybe encourage someone who has never read outside their comfort zone to do so. It also helps the author to spread the word about their books and we so do appreciate it, believe me. It was an accidental meeting of a school friend in my local supermarket a few weeks ago that reminded me about reviews. she kindly congratulated me on my novels, saying she got them on Amazon and so enjoyed them. I asked her did she leave a review after thanking her for her conmpliments. She never thought about it was her honest reply. So I explained how it helped me as an author if she could do so. She was delighted to oblige as she had not known the importance of it.

Is it hard to write a review? No is the answer. All it take’s is a few words whether you liked or disliked the book. There is no need to to write a lenghty synopsis style review if it makes you uncomfortable. Some readers love to share what they enjoyed/not enjoy about the book they read and that is fine if it is your style. You may even just mark the star rating and say nothing at all. Two Examples of a review:

(A) Don’t Call Me Mum is the story of Lacey Taylor and the life choices she needs to make with her mother, Cora Maguire. When Lacey’s decisions are not agreeable to Cora, she discovers just how hard life can be. But the cruel twist life throws in her path will have you reaching for the tissues and asking why is life so harsh? I so enjoyed all the feelings that this book brought up and highly recommend you get your hands on a copy fast.

(B) Just finished Don’t Call Me Mum, I loved it, every word kept me glued to the page. Grab your copy now. 5 Stars for sure.

The two above examples are short and sweet and easy to do.

A few words of advice, if there is a twist or surprise in the story, please Do Not Reveal It Without Warning Readers At The Start of the review there will be a reveal. So keep reading and consider leaving reviews, it helps both other readers and authors to spread the word about their books. Plus us writers will be very greatful indeed.

Click here to read My Husband’s Sin and Don’t Call Me Mum reviews to see how others do it and enjoy.

#AmEditing #CreganeCourt

Finally, I finished my third novel and took a deep, deep, breath. This novel was a struggle because I was new to the characters of Cregane Court. That’s what happens when you write a series first. In my previous two novels, the Lacey Taylor series, the characters are like family to me. In fact now that I’ve started on the final book of this series, (my fourth novel) it is like spending time with good friends, a reunion of sorts.

But back to this other novel, with new characters and a new story, Cregane Court. As you all know once the first draft is down, then the real work starts. Editing. I printed out all 76000+ words. First, I looked for plot holes as I read through, next read through and following reads, grammar, spellings, characters eyes, hair etc. remained the same from start to finish, word/phrase repetition, and so on. Now that I’m blue in the face from reading this book, which I’m close to saying I’m sick of it, I’m happy that I’ve brought it up to a good standard. It will be emailed out to my trusty beta readers and then, guess what? More editing. It is non-stop work to polish your book to a shine that when the moment comes to submit it to an agent or publisher, you’re happy to do so. Cregane Court is now on its fifth or is it sixth draft? Next is taking some time away from it and getting back to the third instalment of Lacey’s story.

Final thoughts on editing, do not rush into it. Once you’ve finished your project, step away. For how long depends on you, a few days, weeks, months, it is your choice. You will need fresh rested eyes to start editing, you will be fine-tooth combing each line and like I said above, you will become fed up of the story as you will be knee-deep familiar with each word.

But do not make the mistake of going over and over the work, unending editing is what I’m talking about, feeling if you should change this or delete that, having edited it maybe six or seven drafts already. Knowing when to stop, usually if your beta readers are happy and you have dealt with any edits suggested by them, for me I use this as the final hurdle. Taking that step to send it out is daunting but you must do it. To progress your writing life, you must let go and press the send button.  

Once out in the big world, it is back to the wash rinse repeat action, new writing, new editing, and submitting. Here I go again, until next post,

Happy writing xx

What Is Plot?

In this, another of my writing tips page, I share what are my opinions, you may agree or not, but I do hope you find what I have to share helpful. A plot is a casual sequence of events. It draws the reader in to the characters’ lives and so the reader understands the choices the characters make. It is the story, the start, middle and the end.

The opening is a vital component of the story. It must grab the reader and give them a need to know more. Introduce the main character from the outset and pose the story’s conflict or question that needs to be resolved. No plot is without conflict /crisis / change.

The type of conflict can be social, circumstance or emotional. Conflict is critical to the story as it is this point that change occurs to your main character. Having conflict gives drama or suspense to the story. In a short story there is usually only one crisis as words are limited.

In a novel, you may have many moments of drama as the word count is so large and it is these moments of suspense that makes the reader want to turn the page to find out what happens next. This all happens in the middle of your book.

The end of the story should arrive at a natural conclusion. All threads teased out through your characters actions and the storyline must be neatly sewn up at the end. It does not need to be a happy ending always, but it must be a satisfying end for the reader. The reader must be left feeling good, that justice was served.

SOURCES FOR PLOT IDEAS: 

  • Your personal experience is best
  • Other people’s experiences, hearing stories or conversations.
  • Research
  • Imagination, what if…? why does…? 
  • Observation: newspapers, magazines, sitting in a café, theatre etc.

If writing historical or setting your story in locations you may not have visited then you need to do research. 

You must give the reader a sense of being there with your characters so knowing the historical era is vital to draw your reader in.

As a writer, observation of life needs to be developed. The five senses, taste, touch, hearing, sight and smell all need to be triggered. The most powerful of the senses is smell; it can arouse so many emotions and memories.

The idea for a story is its theme. This could be romance, murder, historical or fantasy etc.  

POV (Point of View) Who is telling the story?

It is usually either written in the first person or third person. When writing in the first person, the sentences have a tendency to be short and snappy. The story is being told from one person’s point of view so can be trickier to deal with. as the main character can only describe what he/she thinks the other characters feel. It is only the narrator’s view we have to believe to tell us the truth. When using the third person, it is more comfortable to write as each character has a voice and the narrator just fills in the background. Writing in the second person can/has been done but is unusual.

Consider the following: It is late on a Saturday night and a crowd are queuing to get into the local nightclub. An argument takes place between two people and a fight erupts. Regarding points of view, there are many. There are the two people who started the argument, there are those who were within earshot, there is the club doorman who is keeping an eye on proceedings and then the Gardaí when they arrive. So you have many points of view so therefore you have many different descriptions of the one event. From whose POV would you tell the story from? You could use it as an exercise and try different POV, see what you are comfortable writing in.

Bear the following in mind when writing your story:

Exposition———-Complication————Climax————–Resolution   

 “When written in Chinese the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters – one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity”                  

John F Kennedy, April 12th 1959. 

Use It or Lose It

In this piece I ask, do we need to turn up to our page each day?

Use it or lose it, is a phrase that is often heard in relation to having learnt something new, and retaining what has been learnt. It is also said in regard to our brain, to keep it sharp, tackling cross-words / word searches or puzzles daily is a wonderful exercise. 

But when it comes to writing, does it apply? If you do not sit and write each day will your creativity be any less? This thought came to me at about two a.m. in the morning when it appears that’s when most inspiration strikes for writers. I had not written daily for a few weeks now and I wondered if this would affect my writing ability. Would I get back to my routine with my laptop, spilling my thoughts on to the screen easily enough or would I struggle with it all.

So do I agree with the use it phrase or not?

I do not believe my creativity in storytelling will disappear if I do not write daily. I do feel however, it loses its shine. If I haven’t put pen to paper or tapped on my keyboard each day, then my words and thoughts flow slower. They are sluggish, reluctant to appear. My thoughts and ideas are still there, but they emerge in a more meandering way. They enjoy making me work for abandoning them, so it feels.

Whereas if I give a dedicated time to my writing and turn up each day to face the blank page, then my words rush out, at times faster than I can write or type them. There’s never a moment without some plot twist or character action or a story idea in a writer’s mind, it is unending. But as I said earlier, these ideas do not play fair with a writer if they have not interacted with each other for a while.

So yes, it is important to use your writing talent each day, no matter for fifteen minutes or a few hours. Go meet your page, face it and make those ideas and characters come out to play with you. If you only make notes or a list, it is turning on the tap of words. Otherwise you will have many a sleepless night, sorry you didn’t write it all down.

Happy writing.

Where to start with Character

In this post I share basic and simple ways to create your characters, whether for short stories/novels. I’ve included also a basic CV that you can use while working on who will be in the story.

TIPS ON CREATING A CHARACTER

  • Introduce your main character in the opening of your story.
  • My notebook with details of the characters of my first novel, My Husband’s Sin

    Characters through their dialogue move the story forward and gives an insight into their personalities. Their slang, tone, vocabulary, all is unique to that person.

  • Write someone who the reader will identify with, then give that character a crisis to overcome and so your story begins.
  • Naming your character, put thought into it. Make sure the names you choose suit the era of the story (make sure it’s in existence for the time set, modern may not have been heard of historically)
  • When thinking about the characters in your story, it helps to make a CV, so you can refer to it when moments of recall escape you, be it the simple colour of their eyes to which leg was their tattoo on.

CHARACTER’S CV:  A character’s CV is a list of their features, likes, dislikes family status etc. 

  • Eye colour, Hair, Height, Age
  • Temperament
  • Date of birth
  • Moral/ethical/religious beliefs
  • Political stance
  • Hobbies/Interests
  • Habits good or bad, (biting nails,)
  • Quirks or eccentricities
  • Likes/Dislikes
  • Fears/Phobias
  • Short or long-term goals in life
  • Hope and dreams
  • Look at people around you, what are they wearing? How do they behave?
  • Look in magazines, cut out photos that resemble your character (See accompanying image for mine)
  • Where does your character live?
  • What is his/her family relationship like? With friends, work colleagues?
  • What does he/she work at?
  • Where did they go to school/university?

Getting out and meeting others

Bestselling UK author, Adele Parks and writer, Mary Angland, at Wexford Lit Festival 2018

We all know that writing can be an isolating career, cutting ourselves off when penning our novels, and then once the story is finally down on paper we have to go back in and edit. The editing is intense and draining for many and the ‘editing cave’ is often a term used by writers when they cut themselves off from society as they tackle their project.

So getting out and meeting others is very important. We need it to refuel, to charge up our writing batteries and just to feel human again!  This is where festivals and events come in to their own.

Sharing news and celebrating wins and awards let us know that our work is valued, that time locked away, (well it feels that way) has been worth it. But you don’t have to wait for a special occasion, join your local writing group. If you don’t have one, consider setting one up. Libraries love to have groups meet in them, and staff are always so helpful.

APIBA short list event 2018, with writer, Marie O’ Halloran and multi bestselling author, (TV series, Taken Down) Jo Spain .

By meeting fellow writers, you will be rewarded, not just with tips and hints on to improve your writing but making new friends, actual friends in the flesh, not just little thumbnail photos on social media.

So look up what’s on near you and consider attending, your mental and physical health will benefit and your writing will be inspired with new ideas.

5 Beginner Tips For Becoming a Writer

At the beginning of your writing career, you are writer, agent, bookkeeper, marketer, web designer, social media manager, and pretty much anything else you can think of. Today I hope to make that a little easier of a burden to bear, with 5 beginner tips for becoming a writer.

When becoming a writer, we hardly expect to be millionaires. Well, maybe we do, but only because we don’t know how impossibly hard it is to reach that status yet. Once we do, we accept that we’re here for the love of the craft, for the need to create. Money is the bonus that comes at the end of hard work and persistence, but certainly not the driving force. That said, you should treat your writing as a serious business. It involves time management, connections and correspondence, a budget, and marketing efforts. At the beginning of your writing career, you are writer, agent, bookkeeper, marketer, web designer, social media manager, and pretty much anything else you can think of. Today I hope to make that a little easier of a burden to bear, with 5 beginner tips for becoming a writer.

TIP #1  Setting A Budget 

This year I entered short story competitions and I shall be doing so again. It’s a good way of getting your work out there and by writing to different guidelines, it expands your writing experience too. But entering these competitions can be costly so in order to do that I don’t go crazy with my hard earned cash, I set myself an annual budget and I stick to it. Not all competitions cost money, many are free to enter so I suggest checking websites by putting in Free Writing Competitions or something similar. So that is my tip #1, set a budget that you are comfortable with and that way you stay in control.

TIP#2  Maintain A To-do List

We all live busy lives and without my to-do list I would be running around in a panic. It is invaluable for my writing. Each evening I write my list for the next day such as, emails I must send/reply to, stories to send out, fill in my worksheet, phone calls to make/return etc. If I have not ticked off all on that day’s list I carry them over to the next day. If I have not completed a task and it has been carried over for two/three days then I make it a priority to be dealt with first on the list. The satisfaction of ticking off chores is delightful and it gives a sense of achievement at the end of the day. Of course to-do lists are not for writing only; it is a very useful habit to have to keep check of daily life in general.

TIP#3  Keep A Writing Record  

I would be lost without Excel. On it I have entered the title of my stories, where I have sent them, Accepted/Rejected, Competition/Magazine, Payment/prize etc. So at a glance I know where each story is. There are many different programmes you can use, find the one you feel comfortable working with. If you find it difficult you can always use a large A4 book and using a double page spread, mark it in to different columns and title each column, then fill in the details beneath. It is another useful tool in keeping me organised and one that I would encourage any writer to have. Of course it works for submitting to agents or publishers, poetry, songs and plays also.

TIP#4  Always Say Thank You

In a fast changing world many of life’s little things can get lost. Saying thank you can be one of those basic little things. In connection to writing, I believe saying thanks is important. When I receive an email whether it is bringing rejection of my story/novel or telling me my story/novel is accepted, I like to reply with a thank you. By saying thank you, I am acknowledging the time and response that was given to me. I make a connection by doing this and if you are a nice person to deal with, you will be remembered. After all part of being a writer is building relationships and making connections. So whether it is a nay or yay, a thank you can go along way and it costs nothing to be nice.

TIP#5  Reward Yourself

Right, you have worked hard all week. You have been writing furiously, finishing that story/letter/poem and you have watched your competition budget and also entered any work that has gone out/returned into your records. You even remembered to say thank you. It is now reward time. You are entitled to a treat, some new lipstick/ magazine/CD/DVD or a cupcake or two, even time out to read or walk, meet a friend for coffee and a chat. It doesn’t have to cost money; it only needs to make you feel good for all your hard work. There must be enjoyment too from your writing apart from getting acceptances which is the best reward of all. So, little treats now and then encourage us to carry on through the tough times.

So there you have my 5 beginner tips for becoming a writer. As you can see, writing is filled with its own unique highs and lows, but with a little management, you’ll soon have a portfolio of work you can call your own! Happy writing lovelies, and feel free to ask about any and all things writing. As a published author, I understand the stumbling blocks more than most!