When I first started my blog I had visions of writing fun and informative articles, book reviews, and getting to connect with writers across the globe to discuss all things literary… eight years on and I get a little disheartened because while my goal is still the same, I’m not really getting the connection that I imagined.
This topic came about from a combination of Briana’s post on discussion topics for her blog, predictions for 2021, and her 2020 review: it prompted the thought of what content performs well in the blogosphere opposed to what we actually post… and my heart sunk a little. I don’t want to write click-baity articles, or post content that I’m not genuinely interested in, or superfluous articles regurgitating what many others have already done without corroborating those claims with statistics or real-world experience.
I enjoy blog hopping and starting up conversations on other’s blogs, but it is usually met with a generic thank you, or just a ‘like.’ Yet are these the same people complaining that their blog is not gaining any traction? They want interaction, yet are not taking to time to build a conversation? Just posting content hoping for a like. Is this a social media thing around blogging activity in searching for validation, or do we truly want to discuss books, ideas, and help other writers develop their craft?
Maybe I’m expecting too much from a bunch of strangers on the internet. Maybe successful writers are too busy to run a blog, comment, and interact with fellow bloggers and maintain a writing career?
There is such a mixed bag of content out there around writing, reviewing, and reading. Much of the writing advice I see is fairly general and rarely breaks things down to specifics and provide examples – is it a secret we’re not meant to find out? Many reviews I read are fantastic, insightful, and really attend to the mechanics of story craft; whereas others are maybe a paragraph long, summarize the story, or worse, bullet points, and give an opinion of a thumbs-up or thumbs-down without ever discussing things like character, character development, world building, pacing, writing style, plot… But that’s me viewing this platform through the reasons I blog. Many others may have different uses for the blogosphere.
There’s other types of content that I’m, really interested in, like journal/lifestyle blogs, trend forecasting, tips, design, nature blogs, and science related content: so it does not have to be directly related to writing and satisfies my other interests. But still, blogging feels like a niche juxtaposed. And many are hoping to make a living from their writing and monetise their content. I’m starting to think I’m really out of touch with my community, that I’m looking in the wrong place. Maybe I should start venturing out into other online mediums to connect with likeminded souls?
A blog is meant to perform one, or a combination of three things: to inform, entertain, or discuss, if my introduction to writing, literature, and journalism means anything. I get more of these types of things from writing groups, clubs, and paid subscription services. Is it because the content is ultimately vetted in those places? That its membership is exclusively professionals?
I guess people blog for different reasons, and mine is just another drop in the ocean, floating in the currents yet to find a reef to drop to where I can feel like I can make a home. Has anyone else felt this despondency around blogging? Like it’s not really fulfilling the purpose you wanted it to? That it is not achieving what you want it to?
My main reason for blogging is to share my love of reading, writing and improve how I craft prose, connect with other writers and swap bits of information on the process, editing, marketing, and publishing. I’ve maintained this course since I initially started the blog. I will never class myself as an expert because you can always learn and change as this craft and the market evolves.
I’m genuinely interested in the reasons you write your blog. Comment below and let me also know if you are satisfied with what you are getting out of blogging, and what your expectations are.
A guide for beginners – the business of writing doesn’t have to be a drag, it can be an example of adventure.
“For the past couple of years, I’ve been fine-tuning my business strategy as a writer. At a recent writing conference, I discovered that many writers, even those with years of experience, find setting business goals daunting. It isn’t. It’s only frightening because it seems complex. By taking it one step at a time, your business strategy can be made simple and understandable.” – Lynne Lumsden Green
When I think of a business strategy for writing, my mind instantly goes to spreadsheets and budgets, but that is only part of managing your career… and the number crunching part is really a small part. Used as a way to track and monitor progress. An article published in WQ (Jun-Aug 2020) Lynne Lumsden Green discusses this topic which I think helps demystify the task many of us baulk at. She suggests that we start by asking ourselves these questions:
What are your long-term goals? Where do you want to be in five years?
What are your short term goals? What do you want to achieve in the next six months?
What has worked best for you in the past? What hasn’t?
What can you learn from your successes?
What can you learn from your failures?
Upon first reading her article and going through the list of these questions an issue prominently jumped out at me regarding my own career goals. These questions prompt you to not only keep on track with your goals, but highlight what is, and is not working.
The key takeaway for me was the question about what is not working – how long have I been doing the same thing and seen little or no positive growth. It really gave me that ah-huh moment. It’s time I should be trying different methods, tackling different tracks towards my goal. What’s that old saying : doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting different results is the definition of insanity. I’ve gotten too comfortable in my systems and habits that it is now impeding growth.
These questions are all about finding out what works and using those methods to get you to your goals. Ditch what isn’t working.
Lynne Lumsden Green goes on to discuss:
“Let’s look at part of my business strategy as a stepping of point. For 2020, one of my goals is to get more paying gigs. This means I need to write nonfiction articles for magazines, as well as short stories for paying markets. From January, as part of keeping proper records, I’ve been keeping a monthly spreadsheet separate from my nonfiction submission spreadsheets. I started by wanting to sell an article a month, but I am hoping to increase that to one article a week by December. To do this, I need to develop a pitch/query at least once a week. To do that I must develop relationships with the editors of my target markets.”
“Can you see how setting goals leads to implementing a series of logical actions to achieve that goal?”
I love how Lynne explains desire/goal through to a practical application to achieve a result. My writing goals are more based around getting first drafts completed by the end of this year, gearing up for putting out for submission later in 2021. So I have set scenes I have to write each day (notice I didn’t say word count, but story elements of the plot.) In conjunction with this I am researching Publishers who are accepting submissions, what their guidelines are, creating paragraph summaries, tag lines, 1 and 2 page summaries, noting themes, writing up short character profiles… all that lovely marketing material you need for a pitch/submission. Additionally, some publishers (mostly overseas) require that you have a literary agent to represent you, so I have been researching that as well. Again, many are genre specific and have their own guidelines for accepting applications. Another aspect of this goal is researching writing competitions – these can not only put up on the radar of publishers/agents, but if you win, it commonly results in a publishing contract. All of this activity not only makes the whole writing activity real, but gives you a deadline. And each bit of information or step you achieve along the way is ticking off a small task towards your longer term goal.
If you want to get even more technical you could also be tracking the amount of time you spend writing, researching, marketing, so that when you start to earn money through a book advance, sales or royalties, you can estimate how much money you earn an hour. If it’s not high enough for your goals, then you can look at different ways to improve upon your system… and ultimately your earnings.
Writing when inspiration strikes, passively submitting a story here and there one at a time can be a little soul crushing because you are eagerly waiting for a payoff instead of concentrating on a schedule and already moving on to your next target/goal. A business strategy for writing forces you to take in a bigger picture, a career making attitude, and leave you little time to fall into depression from rejection letters and failed submissions.
Lynne Lumsden Green also states “As writing is my business, I try to keep to a schedule. I spend an hour or so every morning on mail, updating my files, and researching new markets. This part of my business strategy won’t be changing any time soon. I then spend an hour every day on social media. I recently had over 400,000 people come through my Steampunk Sunday page on Facebook; a ready-made audience for my writing! You might want to do writing courses or attend more conferences, or join a writing group, so don’t forget to include those in your plan.”
Again this shows by example how much a schedule, consistency, and trying new things are important you your long term success at being a writer. Simply posting to social media blindly does not ensure success, you need to add value, offer a solution to a problem, tap into a niche market. Research your demographic. Try different forms of social media. Reach out to other writers who are having success and mimic their methods for a trial period.
There are a lot of resources out there to tap into. Courses, platforms like SkillShare, YouTube videos, blogs with advice, writing groups, state and government bodies that are running local initiatives to support the publishing industry and writing community, even emailing an author with one or two questions to help you figure things out…
“Don’t forget to be brave. Take risks. Having a business strategy doesn’t mean it has to be boring.”
I hope this discussion helps to change your thinking and provide some inspiration to develop your writing career a little further. Go get ‘em!
Looking back through the year that was, a lot has happened, but a lot did not… It’s kind of a 2020 thing. All my friends are saying the same. My yearly goals have mostly been thrown out the window because of Covid-19 and a cancer diagnosis (again, sigh) but let’s get this wrap up done and put a positive spin on things.
My last catch up was in October leaving my TBR at 423, I didn’t post a November wrap-up because I’d not long started chemotherapy and was focusing on my health and wellbeing, so any work and reading goals felt superfluous. (Plus I was tired and in pain all the time and it was difficult to concentrate.) Though I did read 2 books in November, and completed 8 novels in December, taking the TBR down to 413. I’m still on my buying ban until I get below 400.
I set my reading goal to 52 books for the year, but was really hoping to reach 104… I kept it light with all the financial stresses, health issues, etc… but managed to complete 68 book for the calendar year which I’m happy about.
Thinking back over the year though, I would have to highlight my top five reads:
This Mortal Coil (trilogy) the first two novels were outstanding, it’s action packed and choc full of STEM themes of what the future could look like under heavy influence of genetic manipulation and body modification.
Highway Bodies is a zombie apocalypse with diversity. Highly entertaining and so proud of a fellow Aussie author.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a comedic historical fiction that had me laughing up a storm, really looking forward to completing the series.
I’ll Give You the Sun was a surprise hit out of the park. Bring your tissues for this roller coaster ride.
Reckoning a non-fiction title by Australian darling Magda Szubanski was beautiful melancholic writing that captured a lot of my youth and challenges what it means to not only be an Aussie, but a human being.
Scribe and scribble:
I only managed a paltry 1500 words for the year. With distractions, having to work long hours, being the only one to stay employed through the Covid-19 lockdown for six months, then having to manage doctors’ appointments and chemotherapy, not only did I have little time to write, but my mind simply wasn’t in the right headspace to get creative. It was a depressing year, but I am thankful the worst is behind me.
I still haven’t completed my marketing course, it had to put on the back burner in favour of other priorities. But I am still keen to complete it in 2021 and am eyeing off a few other short courses. I love to learn!
My biggest goal for 2020 was to be more social, get out and about more… and well, it goes without saying that it didn’t happen. Lockdown and being immune-compromised has meant I’ve become a bigger homebody than ever. Oh the irony! On the upside, I’ve caught a lot of good television. Australian series ‘Glitch’ has been a big favourite, tv series ‘Insatiable’ had me in belly laughs, ‘Dickinson’ staring Hailey Stansfield was strangely hypnotic, I re-watched the ‘Teen Wolf’ series and making a start on re-watching ‘Supernatural’ now that it is ending; props to ‘Love, Victor’ and ‘Never Have I Ever.’ Fell in love with ‘Little Mix : The Search,’ squee’d over ‘Julie and the Phantoms,’ and like everyone else got a big sci-fi hit with ‘The Mandalorian,’ ‘Star Trek Discovery’ and ‘The Expanse.’
Some movies that brought me joy include: ‘The Invisible Man,’ ‘Underwater,’ ‘Like a Boss,’ ‘We Summon the Darkness,’ ‘My Spy,’ ‘Enola Holmes,’ ‘Love and Monsters,’ ‘Happiest Season,’ ‘Uncle Frank,’ ‘Freaky,’ ‘Godmothered,’ ‘Superintelligence,’ and ‘Monsters of Man.’
Work that body:
I was working out before the Covid-19 shutdown, and was making progress, though it wasn’t until 6 months later that the gym re-opened and I only got in a month before getting diagnosed with cancer and not being able to return. Though as a part of my treatment and recovery I am doing stretches, getting adrenal massages, and anything else the doctors have recommended to increase my chances for a quick recovery. I have lost some weight, my hair has been falling out, I feel a lot of aches and pains and lose my breath easily; but with a prognosis of 100% recovery I know it is all temporary and am looking forward to normalising my health in the new year. Some scary emergency hospital stays knocked my confidence a bit, but the idea of simply being able to take my dogs for a walk around the park keeps me motivated – I mean those soulful eyes would heal anyone!
As much as 2020 has been a dumpster fire, it’s forced me to focus on what is important and plan out my 2021 – it’s going to be a cracker of a year, because I don’t think I could do worse that 2020 anyway. The only way is up!!
Is your desk set-up secretly causing aches and pains?
I used to be the go-to person in my last few job positions for health and safety when it came to setting up workstations, specifically the ergonomics. With a massive pool of employees that either worked in customer service, or 2D and 3D animation for film and television, people were sitting at their desks for long periods of time, and frequently complained of back, neck, and shoulder strain… enter my lovely smiling face to visit their work area and help set things up so they could be more comfortable.
The biggest issue around back, neck, and shoulder pain mainly came down to muscle fatigue from prolonged amounts of time in a fixed position. It’s important to get up and move around every 45 min to an hour. In fact, I set a timer when I work to remind me to get up and do something else. Typically, I will spread my chores through the day for these intermissions. It not only gives your body a break from being in a seated position, but also helps reduce eye strain from staring at a fixed depth (of the computer screen) and a reprieve from monitor glare.
The next important issue has to do with posture and placement of the keyboard, monitor, mouse and other regularly used items. Without getting into all the specific angles, I’ll attach a few diagrams for reference. But the best gauge is that your feet are meant to comfortably reach the floor (flat feet,) with no pressure on your thighs, elbows level with, or slightly higher than the desk surface, and your monitor positioned straight in front of you. When looking straight ahead, your eyes should hit around the top of the monitor. Regularly used items (keyboard, mouse, etc) should be easily reachable with your elbows near the sides of your torso. Items used a lesser amount can be placed further back on your desk.
All of this keeps you in a natural seated, and relaxed position, avoiding having to hold your body or limbs in unnatural positions for any extended length of time.
From there you can address if you need lower back (lumbar) support cushions, seat framing to keep your hips even with a shaped cushion, or even a shoulder/back harness to stop you from slouching forward. There are other elements you can use to help set up your workspace, like footrests, laptop stands, a standing desk (you can purchase ones that can convert from seating to standing with the press of a button these days.) Different types of chairs, or the kneeling seats or even the exercise balls instead of a chair to force you to use your core muscles to keep you stabilized. It’s important to find what works best for you to avoid injury from strain, or being frozen in a fixed position for too long.
Of course all hazards and wires are safely stored with cable ties and the like. Ensure you have adequate lighting and try to avoid clutter on your work surface.
I only just gave my workstation an ergonomic assessment as I was finding the number of hours I could work comfortably in a day was reducing… it turns out my monitor was too low and off to the left side, and as the day went on I was hunching over more and more until I started getting a lower back ache or headache. Now that everything has been correctly situated, my productivity is picking up and the niggling pain dissipated.
When I originally organised my home office, I had set it up to be aesthetically pleasing using some gorgeous Pinterest pictures as inspiration. And yes, it looked pretty, but was not necessarily the best functioning. I feel like such a doofus for not thinking about the ergonomics earlier.
How did your workspace fair after reading this information? Do you get eyestrain or back pain from the hours you spend writing… let me know if any of these tips help you.
I was thinking over the BLM movement, and casting an eye back to an article I had written in 2014 regarding Indigenous characters in popular Australian YA fiction (you can read it here) and how the landscape has evolved recently.
This is not going to be an article on politics, or black deaths in custody, but rather what I have witnessed in the publishing landscape and my own personal experience throughout my reading lifetime around discrimination that has held back diversity.
It’s great to see POC representation much more prominent in today’s new releases. Diversity in race, gender, sexual orientation… it only serves to enrich and educate the reader. Which, apart from escapism, are the main reasons I read in the first place.
I still want to see more Australian Indigenous characters represented in our literature, particularly YA where we are introducing younger readers into literature.
In Australia, as in the US, only certain stories are allowed to take centre stage in our literary culture and the universal subject is still presumed to be a white, middle-class, cis-gendered, heterosexual and fully-abled male. The more deviations from this (limited and highly problematic) notion of personhood you possess, the more estranged from the centre you become.
“Thanks to a recent report from Macquarie University we know that within the genre of fiction in Australia, 65.2% of literary fiction writers, 76.2 % of genre fiction writers and 86.9% of children’s book authors are women. This makes those graphs showing that men get far more reviews than women all the more infuriating. But, as yet, we don’t have the figures for racial or ethnic diversity.
How many Indigenous writers are published each year? How many non-white writers are published? And what kinds of books are being published?
Part of this lack, I think, comes from constraints placed on writers who are “othered” by the industry. For example, I think that it is probably easier for an indigenous author to be published if they write about epic struggles, rather than breezy romantic comedy. Likewise, I think that migrant writers will have an easier time getting into print if they follow the well-established trope of the happy, grateful migrant.” Natalie Kon-yu Lecturer in Creative and Professional Literature and Gender Studies, Victoria University.
For a moment I want to take a short side trip to discuss the culture of discrimination, assimilation, and the Christianising of the indigenous population that I personally witnessed as a child. It may shine a light on the culture Indigenous people face in the community at large, let alone in the publishing landscape.
Police would routinely round up local aboriginals about our outback town of Alice Springs, (where there is an intersection of close to 60 tribal lands) because business owners would report them as a nuisance, (note: not breaking the law, but just a hindrance to them conducting their business, or an eyesore) then the officers would throw them into the back of the paddy wagon and see if they would bounce. I had friends in school who were of the stolen generation. The church would remove young indigenous children from their families to be educated (*cough*civilized*cough*) in order to save their souls. Because native Australians apparently had no souls. But what did all this assimilation really mean? It meant the indigenous population could then be cooks, cleaners, governesses, manual labour. No right to vote, to own property, just some form of indoctrinated slavery… short of being owned and sold off for money. I’d even heard first hand of how aboriginal women (and girls) were frequently raped. People held their breath when walking past them in public because they smelled awful. I won’t mention the names and slang parents and friends had for our native Australians. They were a joke, less than, diminished. And this is what they would let a child see and know about. Role models like police, priests and nuns, nurses, doctors, parents, business owners, they all exhibited this behaviour for children to see, out in the open on a daily basis. Think about that… this was deemed appropriate for kids; imagine the things that were inappropriate. It make me shudder.
Once I hit my teens, the culture was changing. Maybe it had a bit to do with the capitalisation of the Aboriginal culture through tourism. Aussies were proud to tout Dreamtime, tour sacred sites, sell dot artwork and digeridoos, spears, and wangaras… but you didn’t actually see an indigenous Australian running the show, or reaping the profits of such endeavours. In school we learnt Arande (an aboriginal dialect) as a part of our language course, bush survival skills and bush tucker from local aboriginal elders. The government were starting to offer benefits and handouts to the local aboriginals, and we never saw any more families being torn apart ‘for their own good.’ There were purpose built Aboriginal communities on the government dime… so some progress, but still a way off from the respect native Australians deserved as people. If you stood up for the Aboriginal population and the discrimination they faced, you were laughed at, dismissed, labelled a hippie. It was such a mixed message. So growing up in Australia, in particular, close to Aboriginal tribal lands and settlements, our native Australians were treated abhorrently… and this is firsthand knowledge, behaviour that was out in the open for everyone to see. Gosh I hate to even imagine the type of abuse and discrimination that went on out of the public eye.
My friends (and now family members) are Aboriginal and people of colour, and I was so confused growing up. Why did we treat people that way? Why did grown-ups think it was okay to hurt someone else? Coming of age in a small outback town was intense tutelage in race dynamics. We were isolated. I’d only ever met German or Swedish back packers, a number of Vietnamese of Chinese locals (and they experienced the same discrimination) apart from the Aboriginals: when I finally left home and moved to the city and discovered the wider world, Torres Strait Islanders, Maori’s, my brain just about exploded. Why did we dismiss or exclude our immediate neighbours?
I don’t need to mention that women in the workplace were mostly relegated to secretaries and department store sales if they dare step away from child-rearing. Being gay was seen a weak and an anomaly; publically shunned, ignored, or turned into a joke. There was no diversity of the LGBTQIA+ banner. It’s sad to say but all those terrible ‘80’s movie stereotypes weren’t too far removed from my reality. And to be honest, I don’t think I ever met anyone confined to a wheelchair, blind, chromosomally challenged – those individuals were removed from mainstream schooling to a place with specialised services, or home-schooled. Effectively erasing their existence from the youth’s consciousness.
I was scared to say anything about my experiences, because even though I was a child, a spectator, what does it say about me? I witnessed this discrimination and, frankly, criminal activity and did nothing.
As an adult and teacher I try my best to be inclusive in my ethos – elements of feminism and Aboriginal culture in all areas of the curriculum. Fair representation in literature, history, culture, politics, role models. Teaching awareness and critical thinking. I act with my vote, I act with my dollar. I’m not able to take to the streets and scream about the injustices, throw controversial topics of conversation in the faces of my peers and bosses. That would put an end to my career, label me as combative. Instead, it’s about a balanced conversation, opening people’s eyes rather than an in-your-face confrontation. Maybe it’s a part of my upbringing. Learning to manoeuvre in the background. Instigate change in increments. There is also an element of not throwing stones at glass houses – an all-out assault calls for retaliation. I see it in our politics, in cancel culture… slow and steady stand of principles wins the race. We’re seeing many of those role models of my childhood being replaced with a more educated and diverse culture (or they are simply dying out.)
It gives me hope. Hope that our society is becoming more one. Human beings. Slowly removing bullying, hate culture, discrimination, racism. I’m starting to see reflections of this in literature. Representation like I’ve never seen it before. Old points of view in history challenged. Culture being preserved. Identity cherished.
Movements like BLM aren’t necessarily about literature and representation, they are about civil rights, abuse, murder, discrimination… but the knock on effect is that we are starting to see the rest of society take a good hard look at themselves. Am I participating in a culture that allows discrimination to go unchecked? What can I do to help instigate change for the better?
That’s what I hope most of us are thinking. It’s the world I want to live in. Granted not everyone has these views, and this discussion is only from my life’s perspective as Caucasian. But I hope it challenges you to think about the underlying attitudes behind the lack of diversity in popular literature. About not forgetting the past. About having the courage to stare the ugly truth in its face and knowing things have to change… and how to go about implementing that change.
My family in itself is diverse. We have people of colour, over 7 nationalities, diverse genders and sexual orientations.
I am seeing change for the better. Seeing diversity represented in the industries I work in, in literature. But every now and then the old attitudes raise their head… like when we were shopping, my friend a POC, the shop assistant hovering over him in the store like he was about to steal something. It’s not okay. Not acceptable. But thankfully in my community I see much less of this behaviour than from my childhood. I check people in their jokes or slang. Because those attitudes harm my family.
I hope we are going to start to see statistics on writers from diverse backgrounds – not just male and female. Witnessing the diversity trend in publishing at the moment warms my heart. It makes all those feelings of injustice from my youth have meaning. That I was not alone.
What is the percentage of your diverse reads? Look at the books you’ve read: how many are female authors, authors of colour, ownvoices authors, how many have a diverse main character?
A short monthly wrap-up with a message of positivity.
I was all fired up at the beginning of October, I have been fighting with fatigue and general ickiness and was determined to shake it off and get down to business. Then the dreaded C-word happened. Not Covid-19, but cancer. I have fallen out of remission again and started chemo. I have been struggling on whether to announce it or not. Saying something makes me feel like a failure of some kind. Which is ridiculous. My prognosis is very good and we’re hoping to finish treatment and get clear test results by Christmas. That’s my personal goal too. So my productivity for October has been wobbly. Getting through this mental hurdle, while not as difficult as my last two times, still threw me off-kilter. Now it’s just managing feeling like crap most of the time, trying to maintain concentration to get my days’ work done. I’m not announcing my diagnosis for sympathy or well wishes; just a statement to explain a lull in my activities… and probably from now until the new year. Though this blog has become a point of contention for me -> if I can keep it going as usual, then I’m not letting the c-word completely rule my life.
The funny thing is, the Covid-19 restrictions actually help me – it’s how I have to behave now I’m immunocompromised anyway.
This month I only managed 3 novels (all with cool toned covers, hey I created a theme unintentionally) – I find I get tired, or my concentration wanes quickly at the moment. Which means I’ve only whittled the TBR shelf down to 450. Better than nothing I suppose. So too has my writing suffered. I have managed a couple of chapters, but that’s it. Now I’ve adjusted my work ethic and adapted my routine to chemo and treatment I might be able to get more written in November. I really wanted to take part in NaNoWriMo, but I feel it’s unrealistic in my current condition.
I’ve taken everything off my roster. I don’t need stress or negativity around me at the moment. Just focusing on little wins that bring me joy. Watching tv shows and movies that make me laugh, music that makes me want to dance. And lots of puppy cuddles!! Focusing on the positive: I’m actually going to lose that weight I’ve been struggling with. No more trying to come up with meals – it’s all pre-packaged and balanced for my convenience. I get to spend more time snuggling on the bed with my dogs… and read! If I’m not sleeping.
Most of us are having a crappy 2020, but what are some of the positives that this year has brought you? I’d love to hear some positivity that others have found amongst all this chaos.
Is anyone taking part in NaNoWriMo this year? Let me know what you’re working on in the comments…
Music, ambience, views, nature, books… what helps set the scene for you to pen your next great story?
I go through moods with how I like my environment while writing. I see so many of those playlists on the internet, sometimes I feel like I’m missing something, because while I like to have music playing in the background at times, I don’t associate particular songs to a scene in a storyline.
So I have different modes when I write. At times I like complete silence. Which is fine when your home by yourself, but when you’re not, I need to pull out those noise cancelling headphones to get some work done before I succumb to the urge to bludgeon someone with a heavy blunt instrument.
Other moments I love having an ‘80’s playlist in the background. Something about sense memory of a more innocent time when I was growing up helps to free up my inspiration. Like I’m shedding the stresses of adult life and going back to a time when anything was possible. Music from this time period is like that old oversized cardigan, it’s familiar, you know all the lyrics, and you could listen to the soundtrack and never get tired of the melody. Can’t say my housemate particularly love the retro playlist on repeat, but hey, it’s not about them… and I can always listen to it on my headphones. No harm, no foul, let me dwell in my happy place unencumbered.
I also have moments where I love some easy listening or playing Andrea Kirwan in the background. Her voice melts away my headache and puts me in the mood to write a more intimate, emotional scene. Great for love scenes or creating angst. I’m a mood reader and a mood writer. I don’t have to craft a story sequentially, I can jump forward and backward in the storyline and pen a scene if I have a particular feeling I need to currently capture… yes I’m a plantser! (A combination of a plotter and a pantser for those of you who have not heard that term before.)
Dance music: those feverish times when my fingers are flying over the keyboard, like a coffee fuelled writing sprint. The volume is not too loud to pierce the bubble of extreme concentration as I channel from some other creative dimension. This is particularly useful in action scenes, or when my fingers on the keyboard cannot keep up with my overactive brain. While it feels productive and fantastic in the moment, often when I re-read the days work, some of it is embarrassingly discordant… like and actual monkey took over and was banging at the keyboard.
Ambient noise. Rainforest. Café, office, library… Public places also makes me productive. Something about needing to block out your surroundings to write. And the other layer of people watching you sitting there at a laptop makes me want to look like I’m a productive member of society. Knowing you are being watched is a great motivator, or being surrounded by other productive people make you want to pull your socks up and get to work.
But no matter where I’m working, I need a clean and clear workspace. If I’m writing with paper and pen, I need a bright and light area, whether indoor lighting or plenty of sunlight. There are also moments where I like to sneak down to the computer at night time and write in the darkness. It feels sneaky, intimate, like you’re undertaking subterfuge.
I also love a view of nature. Whether I’m sitting on my balcony overlooking the coast line. Seeing the rolling hills meet the sand and a stretch of white-capped waves rolling in from the horizon. Or down in the sunroom amongst rainforest trees, colourful parrots singing a tune, and a natural spring that brings a serenity with its waterlilies and ducks.
I don’t think I could work in the same place every day forever. It would feel stale after a time. The creative beast needs to be fed with sensations, sights, sounds, and stimulated with verse. Reading helps, conversations, observation, even daydreaming. It is the best way for me to stave off writer’s block… well I don’t necessarily get writer’s block because I switch up my environment, habits, what I’m working on so much that it never gets boring. That, and having a routine (whether I follow it or not) are great guides to keep the prose flowing.
And don’t forget to cut yourself a break. Good writing does not explode from you immediately. Writing is a process of inspiration and creativity, reviewing and editing, fine-tuning, and outside feedback. A solo endeavour, but a group experience. Writer, Reader, Reviewer…
There is no set structure for how to write, just many avenues you can try out for yourself and see what works. You’ll find your groove, fall out of it, and find inspiration again. The key is to never give up and never stop trying different methods. I routinely spring clean my office and re-arrange the furniture, pictures, colour scheme, it give the space a different feel and when I sit down to write it feels fresh and new – with no mistakes – and somehow leave me invigorated and ready to tackle the next challenges.
What are your tips for creating an ambience fit for writing? I’d love to get a writing group together, but living remotely, it’s not necessarily an option. Online doesn’t feel the same. Escaping to the university library is the next best thing. I even went and did a few weeks work at an empty desk in a friends office and it really helped get me out of a low productive moment. There’s always a way…
Keeping track of my yearly goals – ¾ of the way through…sheesh where did the year go?!
Much of my local area is returning to normal with relaxed precautions from the Covid-19 pandemic, but I am starting to see the long road it is going to take for the economy to return to normal. We’ve been lucky. One of us in the household has always been able to work which means no financial stress or worrying about putting food on the table. Though not completely stress free. I worry about my friends and family. I’ve been daydreaming ways I could make the world an easier place for them… but it’s just that – a dream. It would take a massive Lotto win to accomplish anything like that. (Hint, do you hear me Universe. A Lotto win would be just peachy.) As with nearly everyone I’ve spoken to, concentration and creativity can be difficult in these times. I’ve found motivation a huge obstacle, and many of my yearly goals are focused around networking and connecting with people more in a social setting. With 6 month of the year in lockdown, 2020 is going to be a poor year for progress to my goals. Anyhoo, let’s check in on my achievements:
I’ve managed to get my TBR down from 417 to 407, BUT caved with all my free time and with my goal to #BeatTheBacklist in completing series that I started years ago and yet to finish, I had to purchase so remaining titles to complete the collection… And well I haven’t bought any new releases since last year. I splurged. I might of read 10 for this quarter – which is pretty poor for me – but I purchased 16 titles. That means my total TBR pile is at 423. I’m going to have to get that down again if I want to get any books for Christmas!
Books completed in September… and one blurry puppy (because he was too excited to bet his photo taken.)
Scribe and scribble:
July turned out to be my best month for writing, however the following two months were sadly very low with the word count. Mainly because I’ve returned to the gym and found myself so exhausted of late I kept dozing off or having lapses in concentration for my allotted writing time. Turns out, I just needed to add some more iron to my diet. I’m determined to make coming last quarter my most productive for the year. I have two novels that I definitely want to have a first draft done! Get writing girlie!!
Because of above mentioned lack in concentration – and having to pick up more copywriting work, I’ve made no progress on my online marketing course. I have been doing a little more research into other marketing and writing avenues however to help grow my income. Not really helping with certification or professional development, but did increase my portfolio.
Well… emailing, facebooking, and zoom are my entire world for social interaction at the moment. I did venture out once for dinner with the neighbours – which meant we had to line up for ages (socially distanced) provide our personal details for contact tracing regulations, and had to be in and out in 45 mins. It was nice to get out of the house, but not the relaxing social occasion I was hoping for. Apart from that, does quietly obeying my personal trainer at the gym count?
Still on a budget, and busy bidding for work projects so all creative projects are still on hiatus. It’s been six months now and I am getting a serious hankering to do something crafty. Some sewing or maybe furniture restoration… The last quarter for 2020 is looking promising.
I’ve tripled my regular income, needing to pick up the slack from members of the household losing their jobs because of this pandemic. We support each other. With help from my now unemployed housemates, we are at the stage where we can list items of eBay for an online garage sale hand give our petty cash tin a bit of love.
Work that body:
So great to be able to work out again. I managed to put on some weight with the lockdown, and was feeling depressed and frumpy. And by gosh, that break has made me feel so unfit. It’s been an adjustment getting back into the groove, but now I’m over the hump of returning to regular exercise, I should start to see results and get back to pre-Covid-19 status.
My goal to start expanding my digital platform has made no progress this quarter. My time has been so busy elsewhere with more urgent priorities. Maybe I’ll get something done before the end of 2020, but I think it’s more likely this goal will have to wait until next year.
Overall, progress towards my goals for 2020 has slightly improved, and now with lockdown restrictions eased and the country aiming for everything to be back to normal for Christmas, it can only get better. 2020 has been a strange year for tracking my goals. I feel like just skipping over this year – like those awkward teen years – it’s a grin and bear it kind of situation. Though I am counting my blessings and trying to stay positive and focused on the future. Reading about fellow bloggers and their journeys through the pandemic has made me feel not so alone. Like my trainer at the gym says – that last little push makes all the difference, and I plan on bringing the year home with a smile.
How has the current world climate affected you reaching your goals? What has been the biggest influence in helping you get through the pandemic and remaining in a positive frame of mind?
1. How long have you been part of the book blogging community?
I started blogging in earnest in February of 2013. Suddenly the whole world of fellow writers and book reviewers was open to me. I had been toiling with the idea of a blog or a YouTube channel since 2000, but finally settled on my little corner with WordPress. Turns out I was a little too self-conscious to venture into the video format.
2. What was your biggest misconception before starting a book blog?
I think my biggest misconception would be that I would find people invested in my development as a writer, (and eventual publication); I know how egotistical. Everyone else is on their own journey and trying to grow their own following. So after the first six months, I started blogging for the love of it, sharing thoughts on books and getting good recommendations from others… it switched from all about writing, to all about reading. It’s still one of my favorite forms of relaxation.
3. How do you think book blogging has changed since you first started?
There was a lot of people trying to find their voice when I started. It was a wonderful messy collection of people’s thoughts, dreams, and exploration into writing. It has a more professional feel now on many fronts, and noticed many trying to monetize their content. Every now and then I see the nasty side of people’s personalities.
While reading peoples perspectives is fun and interesting, I do find some authors are writing from a place of privilege and haven’t take the time to think on a topic before posting their views…I like the mixed bag community we have, it is mostly thought provoking.
I do still see the younger writers’ post things in point form, which, in my opinion, is just lazy. So the biggest difference from now to when I started are bloggers motivations…
4. What is your favorite book blogging memory?
My favorite blogging memory stems from when someone links to, or shares, my content. It makes me feel like I am connecting with readers and not simply shouting into the void.
5. What are some books that you were introduced to because of book blogging?
About 80% of my library! I collect recommendations mostly from book reviews, then compare them to Goodreads and Amazon listings before deciding to add them to my wish list. So waaay too many titles to mention here. The best thing is finding novels published in other countries that you normally wouldn’t find – the age of the internet and online stores has provided me with a plethora of new authors to explore.
6. What is something that frustrates you about book blogging?
People posting a few lines as a book review, or in point form… or simply summarizing the novel. I want to know about character development, plot, pace, writing style, what where the readers favorite parts, and those least liked.
Another aspect that I wish was better – not necessarily frustrating – is that I wish there was more interaction, the ability to set up groups serious about writing or certain aspects of writing, so you didn’t have to jump to another social medial app to experience this.
But the most frustrating thing at the moment is the new block editor on WordPress. Two words. Dumpster fire!
7. What is your hope for the future of book blogging?
I’d love to see it grow, become more integrated, like we were all contributors to one main channel. Provide us with the ability to grow it into a professional vocation (and gain credibility.) It’s mostly viewed as a hobby or an extension of a website instead of where you can get expert opinions. And maybe have the ability to merge with a marketplace similar to Amazon where customers can buy your novels/products (rather than so many individual stores.)
I remember starting my blog gun-ho, including funny stories but found no one was really interested in them. Even now, only book reviews of popular novels seem to find an audience. Tips on the writing process, editing, publishing, or marketing do well enough… but there is so much of that out there that I only write about what I find personally helpful.
Blogging is more of a catalogue of my reading experience and aspects of my professional growth I put out for discussion. I may have initially thought of it as a marketing tool, but quickly realised it was nothing of the sort, and more of a way to become part of a community. A community that didn’t exist in my local district. So blogging has opened so much more personal opportunity for information, conversation, and recommendations.