Thursday, 30 June 2011

Writing smells

Now that is a lovely ambiguous title...  But first I want to show you this:

I write like
Stephen King
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

Oh yes.  I write like Stephen King.  Who would have thunk?  You probably know about this by now, but I just found out.  And now I am scared witless.

Anyway.  Writing smells.  Not like stinks, just writing about odours.  Mal- or otherwise.

Yesterday the train I take from work home was VERY full (once again).  I was nearly squashed in a closing door.  The oily odour snuck up behind me to click its slick claws into the back of my jacket.  Luckily I escaped from uncertain death and managed to land under a Chinese Food Armpit.  I was saved only by a delicate whif of rose scented beauty.  A hidden beauty, a small thing.  Salvation.

Metal upon metal.  Grinding sparks.  Burnt air.  Crisp, intriguing smells.  These are real-life things.  Trying to write without smells is like trying to paint without seeing.  Lincoln Rhyme (from Jeffrey Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme series) would skewer any crime scene investigator who did not smell the crime scene.  That is, he would have if he wasn't a C4 quadriplegic.

Smells are what makes a story come alive.  If a story is well-written, you can do much more than see a character.  You can smell his fear, you can hear the grind of metal upon metal as the murderer pulls back the bolt on his gun.

Writing real is a difficult thing.  I am not pretending to do it right, or even do it at all.  I haven't written enough *smile*.  But I expect it from the authors whose books I read.  I want to be there.  I don't just want to read about it.

What pulls you into a story?  What makes it real?

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

I'm writing a bunch of nonsense

Have you ever had the experience that you know you need to write, but you don't know what to write about?  And frankly, you don't actually feel like writing?  I am having that at the moment.  After the interview with my character on Misha's blog, I have had a lot of great ideas for my story.  Exciting ideas.  But at the same time I feel somewhat overwhelmed by all of this.  I feel like the story I need to write is too big for me.

I decided to move away from young adult/fantasy.  I want to write something real, something that matters.  In part, that is what I am doing.  My story is largely about human trafficking.  It is something that is real, it is something that is a reality in most lives.  But right now I feel almost inadequate to write that story.  I have never been confronted with the reality of human trafficking myself and now I have the audacity to try to write a story about it.

My story is going well.  I have a main character and two supporting characters so far.  I have a very good idea of where I want the story to go.  The only thing is that I feel like I'm going too quickly, like I'm missing some part of the plot.  I shouldn't let this bother me, since I am only writing the first rough draft of this and would be able to add what is needed later.  I am a bit of a perfectionist.  That is my downfall.  It is a daily struggle to just let my story be and to not worry that I'm telling more than showing, going too quickly, missing out important parts, etc.

Even right now I feel like my writing is erratic and without purpose.  I guess this is what you would call a good rant.  And it is not even a good rantable topic.  I am just carrying on and on because I must write something.  Bugger.

I don't suppose there is anything else for it than to just write the part of my story that is stuck in my head.  The part that is keeping everything else from being written.  It would take like a paragraph to get in onto the page and to get going again.  My story is my block.  That just sucks big time.  Like I said, it feels like I'm going too quickly.  There is so much that still needs to happen before my story can really go on.  But I don't know what it is.

What do you think?  Should I just go on and write the bit that is keeping me bogged down?  Or should I write the thing that needs to be written even though I don't know what it is?

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Meet James - 20 Questions

I wish to apologise again for my useless blogging schedule.  Internet problems...  Today will hopefully make up for it.

I have taken the plunge: I am interviewing my character.  Only, I am not doing it alone.  My dear friend Misha and I are interviewing each other's characters.  With some very interesting results.  That way we get a new view on what they are thinking.  You can see her interview with my character, Mia, on her blog My First Book.  Without further ado, please welcome James to our inner circle!

Hi James.  Welcome to I Need To Write.  I am going to start off by asking you some general questions.  Later we will get to the really meaty stuff.

How old are you?
I'm sixteen. Turning Seventeen next spring.

Where were you born?
In the family funded hospital in my home town. My father wouldn't settle for less than the best when it came to the birth of his children.

Do you like animals?
I guess I'm all right with them. My parents aren't really pet-people and I spend a lot of time at Grayston, so I never got to have any pets.

What is your favourite pastime?
*grins* Girls.

If you could take a holiday anywhere, where would you go?
I'd prefer to stay at Grayston. Rather than having to put up with my parents fawning over St. Ward the Wonderful. In fact, that's what I usually do.

Who is your best friend?  Be honest.
Ward. He came to live with us when we were five. So he's the closest I have to a brother. If I wanted a brother...

What really gets on your nerves?
The thought that I might be becoming more like my parents.

Have you ever wished anyone dead?
Yes, myself.

Have you ever been in love?
*laughs* when I was eight, I swore I'd marry Claire Hughes. But then she grew into a force of nature and I decided to spread myself around a little. *winks*.  Now I don't take the love thing that seriously.  What is love, anyway?

What would you rather have: a house or a car?
Definitely a car. I was hoping for a car for a while though. My parents came back with Callan instead. *scowls* Not very attuned to the needs of their offspring, my parents...

Describe yourself in three words.
I stand alone.

Now for the more interesting questions.  Hang on to your hat!

What is up with you and Ward?  I mean, seriously.  You tend to be an asshole.
*narrows eyes* You don't know me. Don't make judgements.

Am I supposed to be scared?
Am I supposed to answer?

It is no wonder Callan doesn't trust you.  I wouldn't.
*Sighs* Really. That's the best you've got? Callan is an inconvenience to me. I'm dragging my ass after her because the idiot got herself kidnapped. Right now I'm not exactly bothered with whether or not she trusts me.

Yeah, I guess.  But no-one forced you to go after her.  So why did you go?
None of your business. Any other questions?

Man, you are touchy.  Let’s try something else… 
*nods* OK.

Do you expect to have trouble when you get back to the "real" world?
Probably. Skipping school without permission can lead to anything from detention to expulsion.

But if you managed to save Callan, won’t you be a hero?
Who knows? Right now I can't even find her.

She is lucky to have someone like you.
It's my fault she ended up kidnapped.

Do you blame yourself?

Did you try to stop it?
No. I wasn't there at the time.

Then I guess we will have to wait and see why you blame yourself.  Thanks for the chat, James.

Please feel free to visit Misha's blog to check out her interview with my character, Mia.  Misha will be doing this more often, so if you have a character that you would like to get to know a bit better, or if you have some nice questions to ask one of her characters, go over there and introduce yourself.  Good hunting!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Writing in first person

Now that I have my new story up and running (and I love it!) I decided to write it in first person, since this is the recounting of how things happened.  Only, now I am having a spot of bother with getting rid of telling sentences and using showing ones.  The way I write my story is like the MC is telling the story to someone else after the fact.  My previous story was riddled with telling sentences and I tried to extradite them as far as possible with moderate success.  Now I do not know how to handle showing vs. telling in this first-person account.

If any of my readers know how to handle this, please tell me!  I am brand new to writing in first person.  I am pretty new to writing creatively as a whole.  So any advice in this regard would be greatly appreciated.

Friday, 17 June 2011

I know!

Firstly, I want to apologise for my patchy blogging this week.  It was a hectic one.

I know what I want to do!  A big thank you goes out to Misha for helping me figure this out and think it through.  Thanks, my friend.  You're the best there is.

So now that I know what I want to write (although I'm not telling yet), I just need to start again.  This is harder than I expected.  I have to think up almost whole new characters.  At least this time I decided to have only one Main Character.  Last time I had two (that I know of).  It should make it a bit easier to focus on only one character and her experiences.  Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about.  We'll see.

One more thing I need to decide on: who is my target audience?  I can write this story for YA, but then I will feel inclined to soften some of the scenes somewhat.  In other words, instead of my MC being a rape victim, she might be a forced labourer.  These aren't really major things that will change the essence of my story too much but it certainly will have an effect on where the story goes.  It's the Butterfly Effect - I never know what the concequences of my actions are going to be.

Let us start again.  There is nothing new in this world but I have a good feeling about my story.  It seems new, fresh.  You will remember that I complained about the recycled nature of my previous WiP.  I have no such qualms with this one.  I am excited.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011


I had a lovely moment just now.  I very nearly deleted EVERYTHING of importance from my WORK computer.  Indeed, I did lose my yWriter files.  My Work in Progress.  I like to think that I am somewhat computer-savvy.  But it takes one wrong button (two in my case) to screw up a whole world.  Luckily I could retrieve everything again from a different location on my computer, even though Windows said "delete forever".  Stupid Windows.

Now I am at a crossroads.  I no longer have my chapter and a half that I have already written for my WiP.  I must start from scratch.  This is liberating and terrifying at the same time.  I can fix all the mistakes that I made the first time around.  The new version should be much better.  But at the same time I am afraid that I will not be able to keep to my original (and awesome) story idea.

I have so many options now.  Will I just rewrite what I had already written?  Will I start completely differently and keep to my original story idea?  Or will I write something completely different?  I have been toying with the idea of changing my story's period and setting somewhat.  A lot.  I did not want to do it before because it would have meant rewriting what I had already written.  Surprise surprise, I need to do that anyway now.  So do I want to keep my original story idea but incorporate the changes I was considering?

So many decisions to make.  So little time.  I guess I will have to just start writing again and see where my imagination takes me.  I do like plotting just a bit.  But the plot (such as it was) stays essentially the same.  It is just the supporting external factors that would change if I decide to change my period and setting.  Although I might be very naive and in the end everything will be different.  That is just a risk that I must take.  It makes the idea of rewriting a bit more enticing, though.  Who knows what will happen?

Have this ever happened to you?  That you lost everything you've been working on?  What did you do?

Monday, 13 June 2011

Finding time to write

Life gets really really busy sometimes.  I feel like all I do right now is wake up in the mornings, go to work, come home, and sleep.  I guess in reality it is not that bad.  When I get home from work in the afternoons I am usually very tired from a long commute in the car with terrible traffic, etc etc etc.  I know, big excuse for not writing.

I find that my one-hour lunch is not nearly enough for everything I need to do.  I need to organise my life outside work during lunch, write my blog during lunch and write my WiP during lunch.  In the mean time, I'm trying to relax enough to get on with the rest of the day.  All of it in one hour.  Not fun.

so when do I find time to write?  Since I am a newling writer, it is very tempting to think my WiP is not very important, it can wait and I will find time later on.  But I've tried that before and it never works.  If I start thinking that way, I never get around to writing my WiP again.  Even if it is a good, entruiging story.  I just let it slide.  That just sucks.

Within the next few days I will probably start taking the train to work.  It will mean almost three hours of commute a day.  The train is not the best place to try and work on a laptop, so I will need to write by hand if I am going to write on the train at all.  But it is a good time to write or read.  Yes, even reading has taken a back seat.  I'm reading Jeffrey Deaver's Carte Blanche, the new James Bond novel.  It is an awesome book, one of the best.  But I can't find time to read.  That is how busy I am.

I will need a new strategy to cope with my time-consuming life.  Maybe I should just cut down on all the junk that takes up my time.  Focus on the important things like my studies and my writing.  And my home life.  Most important of all, my home life.

How do you cope with a hectic lifestyle?  How do you make time for writing in between everything else?

Friday, 10 June 2011

A change from the usual

I am not only a fiction writer, I am also a copy writer.  This means that I write pretty mundane stuff sometimes.  Ghost writing is a part of my work.  All of you would understand what it is like for me to write someone else's or even my own work just in a different way, with different words.  It is not exactly conductive to a creative experience.  I tend to get a little frustrated when I am asked to ghost write something.  I feel the same kind of frustration when I have been writing the same (creative) thing for a while.  Luckily there is a cure that works for both my job and my creative writing.

If I've been focusing on poetry for a while, I often start to feel like my poetic creativity takes a nose dive.  Big time.  I can't rhyme, and my non-rhyming poems just plain suck.  So what I do is to write something completely different.  I would write a long, plainly worded letter.  Or I would write a piece of prose that is focused on a completely different topic.  If I was writing poetry about the seasons, I will write prose about darkness and light or even an interesting newsworthy article.  I have written many philosophical essays that are probably very badly thought through and that make no sense.  But it was to write something different. That was the whole point.

This need to write something different is what drove me to start a blog.  Writing through my writing problems often lead to a solution, if only because I am not writing my WiP.  Writing something else has the power to clear your mind, give you new perspective.  I don't mean start a new novel if you are bored with your old one.  That probably won't help at all.  Write something completely different.

What about you?  Do you write the same thing all the time?  How do you clear your head and get perspective?

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Sharing some great music

I am Afrikaans speaking but I am not a big fan of Afrikaans music at all.  There is one band that is worth listening to, though.  The band is called Kaleidoskoop.  I am sharing a video of their one song "Bang Jan Dooie Man" or loosely translated "Scared man, dead man".  It is a play on the phrase "rather scared than dead".  The song is about taking your chances, doing what you would like to do.  Don't be afraid: go out and get it.

Bang Jan, Dooie Man from Pierre F Lombard on Vimeo.

Why do I share this?  What does this have to do with writing?

In my experience writing is one of the things that people rather don't do than do wrong.  I know this is basically what I said yesterday.  But it is something that was brought home to me quite powerfully the past while.  There are so many reasons not to do something.  "I am not qualified", "I am no good at it".  In the past, I would have agreed that those are good reasons.  I know that sometimes we should not do something because it is a really bad idea but there are so many things we miss out on because we are too afraid, or too caught up in the expectations people have of you.

One of the lines in the song translates to "Do you only follow the well-trodden path, marked with road signs, where others went before you?  Or do make your own path where your heart leads you?"

My heart leads me to write.  For me it is great, uncharted waters.  It is really scary to do it.  But that is no reason to not do it.  Actually, it is the main reason why I should do it.  It is a challenge.

Go ahead, challenge yourself.  What are you afraid of?

Do you sometimes feel like you can just give up because it is too hard?  What do you do to keep going?

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

What to write?

My biggest problem with writing is not the writing itself.  My biggest problem is with WHAT to write.  I seems simple enough, right?  No, not at all.  In the dark recesses of my mind there are many different stories, scenes and possibilities looming, just waiting to pounce.  These ideas are extremely cruel sometimes.  They only show themselves once I am well on the way with a completely unrelated story.

So I have been having some second thoughts about my little brand new Work in Progress.  It occurred to me that many of the ideas I have are not my own at all.  They are snippets from someone else's great idea.  My characters are based on other people, my plots have been done before and my great villain is just another rat.  When I realised that my work seems reduced, reused and recycled, I wanted to lose all hope in writing.  I mean, what is the point of writing, if you are just writing crap?

Luckily the dump I was in lasted for less than a day.  At some point I knew that I could not stop writing.  I did not want to stop writing at all.  Even if what I wrote was crap, I liked it.  I liked the process, the challenge and the jubilation at being able to do what I wanted.

Have you ever felt like you could just stop writing becuase you are writing badly?  That is no reason to stop!  I always write badly.  I am a scientist, so all my writing is focused on getting the point accross with as little hassle as possible.  I am also a technical writer.  There is no room for writing flowery descriptions in technical writing.  This affects my creative writing.  I cannot change who I am.  I cannot change the kind of writer that I am.  And it is nobody's bloody business if I write the way I write.  I am not writing premarliy to publish, I write because I am a writer, for no other reason.

I am going to try getting some exercise in writing for the sake of writing.  No plots, no predefined characters.  Just write whatever comes out of my head.  That is the most fun way to write, anyway.  And tonight, when I get a chance to write for my WiP, I may be able to show, not tell.  Maybe, just maybe, I can write well.  But if I don't, so what?  Who is going to care?

Do you also feel like you are writing badly?  How do you manage the frustration?

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

My first post . Welcome to me!

Welcome to me!  I am the most interesting person ever in the world.  I will prove it.

My cat's name is Q.  He is the Darth Vader of all kitties.  I have read The Lord of the Rings 5 times.  OK, I know there are people who have done way better than that.  I don't care.  I live in the most beautiful city in the world.  It has a big flat mountain on one side and the ocean on the rest of the sides.  I like playing Assassin's Creed for PC.  I have run and climbed on the walls of Jerusalem during the Third Crusade and I have climbed to the roof of the Vatican in the early 1500s.  At the same time I make war with the Orcs of the White Hand.  Meanwhile, in another parallel universe, the hero is saving the damsel in distress from rats with toothpicks.  I really, truly love fire.  Especially fire that appears out of thin air.

My mind is a dagerous, volatile place.  It spontaneously combusts at the worst possible moments.  It keeps me occupied.  It keeps me interested.  And it keeps the people around me somewhat scared and in awe.

I am writing my first serious book.  I have a mentor who suggested that my blog be more about me.  I can't think why ;)

This blog will follow my epic journey through writing my book.  I will often blog about my writing experience, but not always.  You will get glimpses into my own little world.  The world I have been creating since I was very little.  Most of all, I will strive to be pathelogically honest in this blog.  Or I won't blog about it if I can't be honest about it.

Welcome to my world.  May you linger here in peace, in awe and maybe with some mirth.