The 12 Week Plan

Welcome everyone, I hope you’re all well and finding some form of motivation in these difficult times. If the future feels a little daunting, which to be completely honest, for most of us it does, hopefully this post will help to alleviate some of those worries. I received a text message yesterday just after 5 o’clock, within the message it stated that I was one of the 1.5 million individuals that come under the high-risk category if I was to contract coronavirus. Now, I’d been expecting this but it still came as a shock when the message actually arrived, it somehow made everything feel deadly serious. The thought of contracting this horrible disease is frightening and so is the idea of being housebound for twelve weeks. So, with all that in mind, in this post I’m going to discuss the things I’ll be doing throughout the twelve weeks to remain sane, keep myself motivated and most importantly, stay healthy.

Firstly, now this is incredibly simple and takes very little time at all to complete, I’m going to make my bed and get dressed every day. Pretty basic right? The truth is, well for me anyway, that if I don’t do these very basic things my day never really starts, I cannot differentiate between morning, afternoon and night if I’m walking around in my pyjamas all day. By making your bed it means you are unlikely to get back into it during the day, by getting dressed it allows you to feel like your starting the day in a proactive way. I’m trying to keep my day as close to normal as is currently possible, if there was no coronavirus right now what would we being doing with our days? For the vast majority of us we’d be getting up, getting washed and dressed and then heading to work, so why should the routine stop just because we’re in isolation? Some people may be able to complete their regular jobs whilst at home, if so that’s awesome, but if like me you’re unable to do that, then let’s continue on and fill our days with other productive things.

I’ve started to write down a daily plan in my planner, again this might seem pretty basic and in actual fact it’s something I used to do regularly, but in recent times there’s been very few entries in the diary. Why have I started doing this now? Well, in order to fit different things into my day, I need there to be structure, from experience I’ve found it very hard to stick to things if I don’t know when I’m meant to be doing them. If they’re written down there can be no confusion, it takes away the debate we always have with ourselves about which task to start first, a debate that normally leads to procrastination. knowing what we’re doing and when breaks the day down conveniently for us, with that structure it feels like separate portions of a day rather than just one long expanse of time, something I feel helps productivity. Along with setting detailed plans in the planner I’ve also cleared and readied my office space, since having Ezra I often do my writing around the house, It’s sometimes easier that way because I’m mobile, if Ezra needs something I’m on hand to help if needed. It’s also driven by the amount of time I used to have, I’d get back from work at 6pm and be in bed by 10pm, those four hours in-between where spent as a family, cooking dinner and using whatever was left to write. However, there’s no reason not to sit in my office now, with so much time to use I can fit it all in without worry, having a dedicated place to write again will certainly help with productivity and make me more focused.

As well as writing, of which I’ll be doing a lot, another huge focus has been my initiative, Ditching the Dad Body. This is something that’s been on my mind for quite some time, I started in early March with the aim to set an example for Ezra with the way I eat and exercise, incorporating a healthy lifestyle into my routine. I was doing rather well up until the coronavirus pandemic really started, running after work during the week, eating fresh meals every day and cutting out takeaways. When I was told last week that I needed to self-isolate for seven days this new healthy way of life drifted away, partly because I was stressed and worried, but also because I got lazy. My routine was gone, I’d run after work because it was convenient and I didn’t like the idea of home workouts, the frustrating thing is when I stopped exercising properly my appetite slunk back into its old habits. Although, now knowing that I won’t be able to leave my house for twelve weeks has actually reinvigorated me, Ditching the Dad Body just needs a few tiny alterations that’s all. I will instead follow a home workout called Focus T25, this is a workout from Beachbody who are a very reputable company that get results. As the name suggests it’s only 25 minutes long, perfect for fitting into my daily schedule. The programme also lasts for ten weeks, which fits nicely into my twelve week isolation period, what’s not to like? I’m hopeful that by exercising throughout the week I’ll remain motivated; it’ll keep my mind active and release good endorphins that should promote a positive mental attitude. There are some wonderful free workouts to complete at the present time as well, Joe Wicks is performing free PE lessons/workouts for children and adults, why not make this part of your day?

Another aspiration of mine in recent times has been to start an online open learning course, with what’s transpired over the last few weeks I’m finding it hard to grasp a reason not to start one now. Financially I will have to assess whether this is a realistic thing to be doing but I certainly have the time, why shouldn’t we set new goals? It would be something positive to come out of twelve weeks stuck at home, it also gives me something to aim for and look forward to. At the end we will also have something tangible and useful that can be used in the future, something we can be proud to show off, to let people know what we’ve achieved. Now, this idea might not be for everyone, I’m quite a studious individual which is why I’d look at a course in something I find interesting, but try using a part of your day to learn something different, who knows you might come out of isolation with a wonderful new passion.

Lastly, I will look to read a little more often. I’ve always been quite an avid reader but with work and a new baby taking priority in recent months, my reading pace has slowed. With an entire twelve weeks to dissect I’m sure there will be ample time to read, there’s many reasons why I feel reading will help a lot of us who are stuck in isolation. The biggest and most important is that it’s pure escapism, if we’re reading a novel or in my case an epic fantasy trilogy it allows us to be someone else, be doing something else. In that period of the day put aside for reading we’re suddenly no longer the person stuck in isolation but a hundred different characters, living a hundred different lives, and I feel like that’s liberating when all you’ve seen recently is the same four walls of your house. We also learn a great deal by reading, it keeps us informed and our brains ticking over, if you’ve got aspirations like me to one day be a success within the writing industry then reading is certainly a way to learn new, useful techniques. Of course, my family will also be filling a huge portion of my day, I’m looking forward to having so much time to spend together, having so long together is something we’ve not experienced before because our schedules have always been so hectic.

I’m going to finish this post by answering a question that you might have been wanting to ask, how does any of this prevent me from worrying about contracting coronavirus or the future? In truth, we will always have these worries, until coronavirus is defeated it’s hard not to panic, but by setting a routine like I’ve discussed throughout this post it will keep our minds occupied. Having a routine and things to look forward to during your day will make it far more enjoyable, if we sit there worrying ourselves silly about everything, it’ll end up feeling like a very long isolation period indeed.

As always, thanks for taking the time to read my post everyone, it means a lot. Please feel free to like and leave a comment, I look forward to hearing from you. See you all real soon.

Reading – Pure Escapism

Hey everyone!! It’s wonderful to be back posting on A.P Writing, I hope you’re all feeling great and enjoying life. This next post as the title suggests delves into the importance of reading, I’ll ask some key questions and try to give you some insight into my mind set. Now, as Ned Stark would say, WINTER IS COMING, the days are growing shorter and before long our days will be nothing but dark mornings and gloomy evenings. Ah, but is this not the best time of year to read? Just imagine the scene, you’ve had a stressful, tiring day at work, you get home, brew yourself a cup of tea and sit in that cosy little chair with a good book, total bliss ehh? Of course if only it was that easy, I’m sure like me many of you would love this to be their daily routine but life will inadvertently get in the way. Perhaps some of what I’ll discuss below will encourage you to squeeze that half an hour into your evening, to read a good book while nightfall creeps in.

So, firstly we should think about just what it is we get from reading, for me there’s a hundred different answers I could give, and the amazing thing is that mine will probably be different to yours, reading like writing is a unique experience. With that in mind I’ve compiled a list of questions we can talk through. To begin with why not look at what got us into reading, we all had to start somewhere. I personally took up reading as a child, I’ll admit looking back now I wish I’d done a lot more, my earliest memories of books that I really truly enjoyed were Anthony Horowitz Young Bond collection. I continued to read on and off through my early teens but found a real passion for reading and writing when I hit my twenties. I was utterly taken away by the escapism and for the first time in my life remember thinking this is what I want to do, I’ve got so many stories to tell. Was it the same for you? Have a think back to when you started reading, we’ve all probably been doing it much longer than first thought.

Now, I read somewhere that 10,000 hours of practicing something makes you an expert, does this make us all experts in the art of reading? We spend hours at a time engaged within a book, how many hours is that over the last however many years you’ve been reading? The point I’m trying to make is that we keep coming back, why is that? As stated earlier I gain so much from the escapism a book brings, getting to be someone else, achieve things we never could in real life, that’s liberating. Whether you see yourself as rouged Jack Reacher, solving crimes and helping the innocent or enjoy having the ultimate power at the hands of a Targaryen and their dragons, there can be no denying sometimes it feels good to forget our own lives in favour of our fictional hero’s. I also love how reading engages the brain, we’re constantly thinking about different scenarios and how a scene might play out, slyly amused when the author fools us again.

In my opinion we learn something new every time we finish a book, so ask yourself while we’re here, what knowledge do you keep? Yes that’s right, believe it or not there’s more to finishing a book than just the sense of satisfaction you feel, think of the writers style and what you liked about it. Think of all the words you read and didn’t understand, I’m not ashamed to admit that sometimes when reading I come across words I’ve not seen before. So what do I do? Well I write them down of course, research what they mean and then use them when applicable in my own writing, if I wasn’t reading just think how many fresh, exciting words would go unread. Without knowing it we’re always soaking up little snippets here and there when reading, especially from our favourite authors.

I’m guessing some of you are following this post thinking ‘wow, Adam really does look at all this reading stuff through rose tinted glasses doesn’t he?’. If you are then well done, I salute you. At times reading can get boring and frustrating, but I’d argue that it’s perhaps what you’re reading and not reading itself that’s the issue. On the very rare occasion I’ve begrudgingly admitted that giving up is the only solution, although I can count on one hand how many books I’ve started and not finished. If a piece of writing does nothing but irritate you, if the story you’ve started makes you want to launch the book rather than read it then what are we gaining from that experience? Absolutely nothing. Move on and find something that’ll engage your brain, you can thank yourself later.

What specific part of a story holds your interest most? There’s probably another cascade of answers for this question but we’ll discuss nonetheless. Lets start with plot, part of what grabs us from the get go is wondering what happens next. Is the main protagonist heading for trouble? Well I guess we’ll just have to read on and find out what happens, eventually wondering to ourselves ‘where did all those hours go?’. But in all seriousness we need to have a strong plot, the suspense adds another dimension. So what about characters? This is what grips me most, If an authors invested time developing a character then we really begin to care about them. Look at Mr Harry Potter, JK Rowling created such a relatable individual that half the world waited on baited breath for what came next. Add to that the fact we got to see those characters grow up over many years, often mirroring our own life experiences you can see why characters become such a draw. Another personal favourite of mine is the landscapes we experience when reading. Lets be honest here, I’m never going to visit Mars but through Andy Weirs The Martian I feel in some ways I already have. This was a book I happened to come across when scrolling through my kindle and was quite glad I did. Tad Williams Osten Ard is another prime example of a landscape within a book series that we can get totally lost in. I’ll close this question with another, how many points of view do you get to experience in daily life? For most of us it’s just our own, now think how many you get to experience when reading a story.

It feels like we’ve been discussing for some time now, there’s so much to cover and probably a lot more I’ve missed but I’m going to finish with one final question, multiple genres or just one? Personally I’m a big advocate of reading far and wide, I see reading as escapism but also as a tool to improve my craft as a writer. However the important thing is that we’re reading, if one particular genre is the only one keeping you interested then stick to it. A recurring theme throughout this piece has been how we’re all unique and respond differently to different things, whatever it is that keeps you reading, do it because reading is the key to so much more.

As always thanks for taking the time to read through my post folks, I really do appreciate it. Please feel free to leave a comment, I’ll see you all real soon.


Writing – So what does it take?

Hey Everyone!! I hope you’re all well, sorry it’s been a while, life’s been pretty darn hectic recently. Welcome back to another blog post from A.P Writing, this weeks focus will centre around what’s important when trying to achieve our writing goals. Writing, as with most things in life is full of ups and downs, In the next few hundred words I’ll detail what I do to stay motivated, hopefully you’ll find it useful.

Be Confident
I’d like to start this paragraph with a question. How successful will we be if our subconscious thoughts are full of nothing but negativity? The answer is probably going to be not very far at all, personally I think confidence directly affects our performance. Now I’m not talking Conor McGregor’s bordering on arrogance kind of confidence but you must always believe you’re good enough. It’s not always easy staying confident or even being confident in the first place but with practice you’ll start to feel a little more at ease with your writing. I’ve had terrible confidence issues in many things throughout my life but I’d go as far as to say that my writing holds none. It’s perhaps my most confident area in fact, somewhere where I’m comfortable and positive about things. There’s a few reasons for this but ultimately it comes down to the work I put into writing, it’s my dream and the harder I work the more confident I become. If you find yourself full of doubts just ask yourself what’s stopping me? You’ll probably find it’s a lot less than you first thought.

Persistence is also hugely important, having that never say die attitude will help us all greatly when things are looking a little bleak. It’s a tough old world the writing industry that’s for sure, with the emergence of self publishing through companies such as Amazon the landscape is incredibly competitive. There’s thousands of new books published every day, staying persistent and working hard will make your work stand out. It would be easy when we’re having one of those de-motivated days to just give up, how can we ever be better than all these other writers right? But you see that’s where we will be different, we’ll be persistent, whether that’s reading everyday, writing anything for the practice or working on your projects after a stressful day at work when all you want to do is rest, hard work pays off.

Set Targets
Perhaps one of my weaker areas but still a very important one when looking to progress, setting clear targets will help us in the long run. With a target to achieve it gives us something to aim for, in my experience it can become quite disheartening when we’re working hard on things but have no end goal in sight. Of course everyone is different and we all have certain strategies that work for us, some individuals may not need to set targets to get the best out of themselves, I unfortunately am not one of those people. If we have one huge target such as one day being a successful writer then we have to ask ourselves how are we going to get there? Setting smaller targets will allow us to break that large target down and make it feel far more achievable. One thing I will say however is treat these targets as guidelines, I recently sat back and did my yearly review of the targets I set for myself last August, I hit some and completely missed others. My current writing project AOKTKC was meant to take me 12 months, I’m now 14 months into writing it and anticipate the first draft taking another 4-6 months, am I upset though? Absolutely not. I’ve worked hard all year and that’s what counts, I’ll touch on this a little later on in the post but there’s no rush, I’d rather take more time and produce better quality writing than stress and rush my work. I did however identify areas in which I could improve and therefore set new targets aimed at improving those areas.

Honesty is the best policy
If you feel something isn’t right or working out for you when it comes to your writing, change it. This could include a multitude of things and be applicable at differing stages of a writers career. Listen to your gut at the end of the day, if the story you’re currently working on feels more like a chore than a release then perhaps it’s time to put it aside for now, focusing instead on something that stirs your passion. Be honest with yourself, just because you’ve put something aside for now doesn’t mean you wont go back to it again in the future. I find if I’m writing something and it’s becoming monotonous it strips the enjoyment right out of things, my creativity suffers and this is where those ‘Am I really good enough?’ doubts creep in. Personally I always take on board everyone else’s honest opinions as well, that doesn’t mean I always agree with them but sometimes advice and criticism, when constructive can be very useful.

Determination is KEY
Stay devoted, reaching our end goal will be no easy task, there’s going to be times when all feels hopeless and we want to give up, when we’ve been rejected for the fifteenth time and making a career from writing seems impossible. Well all I’ve got to say is DON’T GIVE UP, try remembering in those situations why we started in the first place, use those thoughts to stay driven and determined. For every dark night there’s a bright day after that, and yes for those of you out there wondering, I did just quote Tupac, but I feel his words are very apt. We will face dark times full of rejection letters, (unless we’re super lucky of course) and gloomy days but eventually we will get there, we’ll achieve what we set out to do.

What Inspires you?
For me, the answer to that question branches off in many directions, but ultimately it’s the work of other writers I’ve read over the years that’s inspired me most. The idea of earning a living doing something I love inspires me greatly. Also it’s often life’s little surprises that inspire us, finding out I’m going to be a father motivated me hugely, I want to make my child proud. However inspiration can come in many forms, if you find that writing relaxes you and that’s your inspiration for doing it then keep going.

What’s the rush?
This is more of a personal opinion but the more we rush things the more room for mistakes we create. Again this could be relevant in lots of different situations, getting a book published, creating a blog post, writing a chapter, or working on an assignment if you’re still in education, why rush? When the time is right to unleash our work on the unsuspecting world we want it to be the best possible example that it can be, sometimes we don’t get a second chance. Liken it to building a brand for ourselves with the work we produce, we want people to keep coming back. I’ll end on this point, honestly at the moment it feels like I’ve got very little to show for all the effort I’m putting in, but I don’t rush, instead I tell myself that one day all that hard works going to pay off, and that’s my mind set moving forward.

As always everyone thanks for taking the time to read my blog post, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be back real soon with another.

A Difficult Day

Afternoon everyone, and welcome to A.P Writing on this stupidly hot day. I hadn’t intended writing a blog post today but alas here I am. Over the last few hours I’ve managed to flit through a hundred different moods, of course today’s heat hasn’t helped but one thing became clear, I’m de-motivated. This at first thought seemed quite uncharacteristic of me, but having taken the time to analyse my situation properly things became clear. I’m now going to share with you why I’m struggling with my writing and what I’ll be doing to rectify those issues.

Firstly, and I’m pretty sure a lot of you will have felt like this, everything seems so far away. I’ve got all these wonderful dreams, all of them filling me with excitement but how do I achieve them? I know roughly how I’ll get there but why does it have to take so long? That thought process has been exactly what’s plagued me today, for the first time in a long time I doubted myself, which is disappointing. I sat down and spent an hour on my current writing project, originally meant to be two hours worth of work, only to find the words staring back at me, unable to write. This is the time when I need to instil that inner belief once more, I need to tell myself that no matter how far away everything feels, I will get there eventually. It might not be today, nor tomorrow or even in a years time but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen one day, just don’t give up. As I hinted in my very first blog post my dream is probably the same as you, I’d love one day to make my living through writing stories, there is no reason why this can’t be achieved. The only person capable of stopping us is ourselves, just tell those nagging doubts to shut up whenever they surface because they will, we’re only human at the end of the day.

Secondly, I’ve gone nearly a week between writing chapters, this might sound like quite a short space of time but for me is pretty disrupting. I’d spent a lot of time planning the chapter and then worked on it daily, everything was stored fresh in my mind. Imagine then not looking at it for seven days, trying to pick it up again proved difficult. I can’t blame laziness for these missed days, I’ve just yesterday finished my house move. There are also other writing related projects I’m working on which take up my time, perhaps I should prioritise a little better moving forward though.

Lastly, it’s crazy hot outside. How can anyone focus when their main priority is keeping cool? I must admit I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to summer, as mad as it sounds I much prefer cold days full of snow. Trying to sit down and focus in this heat is difficult at the best of times, but it’s one of those things I’ll need to get over if serious about achieving those goals of mine. Now, I hope you’ve found some of that useful, we all have days like this, it’s just important that they don’t stretch into weeks as that will definitely stall our progress. Keep positive everyone, we can do this!!

As always thanks for taking the time to read through my blog post, feel free to comment and I’ll see you all real soon.

Characters – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.

Welcome everyone, I hope you’re all well and enjoying this quite balmy summer we seem to be having. As promised last week I will be dipping into all things character related today, mainly discussing what I like and dislike, what I think aids character development and also a particular focus on creating vivid characters for our readers.

In my opinion and it is just my opinion of course, the way a writer develops their character over time is perhaps the most important ingredient keeping us readers coming back for more. If a character’s story arc is frustrating or monotonous or even really predictable, we can sometimes switch off and lose focus. Spending time in the development and planning of our characters story arcs is vital. I’m most engaged when kept guessing, at times finding a favourite character’s trials and tribulations becoming my own, at that point the writer has probably got me hooked, therefore encouraging me to read on. The way I try and achieve this is to always keep the reader guessing, if they can see a character’s progression from a mile away what will keep them coming back? As touched on in previous posts, planning is a big thing for me, I really struggle writing something off the cuff, I need to sit down and think about different scenarios and how certain characters and also different areas of my story will be affected by the decisions made. This often translates into many hours drafting notes before eventually sitting down to write a chapter, but for me that’s the process I follow to get the best results possible for myself. It’s subjective however, some writers may struggle with so much planning and find that when the ideas are flowing that they’re best off getting to work, it’s about whatever works for you.

Now, getting a reader’s attention straight away is important, when introduced to a new character I want to know the basics quickly, such as what colour hair they have, how long it is, what colour their eyes are, how short or tall they are. Why is that important? Well firstly from those things I can already picture the character, and once I’ve learned what those things are, I’ll know for future reference when reading on. I don’t want to find out in chapter 25 that my favourite character is bald when I’ve been picturing them with long hair for most of the story. Drip-feeding more subtle characteristics throughout the story can take more time but help with building that image of a character for us as well, this could include a hobbled walk they may have, or something like a nervous twitch when they speak. These things can sometimes allow us as writers to introduce a character into a scene without them needing to speak. An example of this in the story I’m currently working on, working title AOKTKC, is a character with very defined features, things that make it easy for me to bring them into a scene. I also have a character with a very pompous nature, his behaviours reflect that, and the reader will be able to easily identify them through those behaviours.

My next point may sound a little contradictory, but I’ll try explaining it as best I can. When growing with a character I don’t like it if I’m aware of all the information regarding where their story arc is heading, so in a way I’m advising you not to give away all the information at the start. This may sound quite obvious, but it can definitely be overlooked sometimes, we’ve got this great idea and can’t wait to share it with the reader, so we tell them straight away that the protagonist is a long-lost son of the king or something. I’m not ashamed to admit that in my first few attempts at writing I was guilty of this, but you learn with time and practice, some people may just pick it up naturally. Sharing significant details over time helps build suspense and will ultimately keep us wanting more. Also, now this is a bit of a difficult one, as it requires serious consideration and judgement, try not to become so overly attached to your characters that it affects your decision-making process. You may sit there reading what I’ve just written thinking you’re absolutely bonkers, how could we not grow attached to our own characters? Believe it or not I agree, it does sound ridiculous but think about what I’m saying. If the story would benefit or could be enhanced significantly by a character’s rash decision or even potentially losing the character would you write that into your story? What if you’ve grown so attached to them that you can’t? We will of course find ourselves changing the plan while we work through a story, new ideas will arise and sometimes you think of things you simply didn’t at the beginning, but try not to be ruled by your love for a character you’ve created. I know it’s hard, sometimes we’ve spent years writing them and the thought of saying goodbye can be difficult. The example I like to use for this is George Martin with A Song of Ice and Fire, look at how many characters he waved goodbye to. It couldn’t have been easy but he made those choices and the series benefited as a result. Believe me there where times I could’ve throttled him, especially when the Frey’s murdered half the Starks, but each and every time I wanted more.

Lastly, I’m going to touch on a couple of my favourite characters and what makes them stand out. Perhaps the most well-known character in the world today takes first spot, Harry Potter captured my imagination the second I picked up the series. He was different and I liked that, we found out very early on about his parents and Lord Voldemort, but the rest of his journey was incredibly well weaved over seven books. In some ways I could relate to Harry and in others I couldn’t, he was a wizard at the end of the day, but all his highs and lows become my own. My second favourite character is Simon from Tad Williams Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series, although a much more traditional story arc of young magician’s apprentice, it captured my imagination in so many ways. Tad gave him such a personality I almost felt like he was my best friend at times, constantly eager to find out what happened next. I think with both of the characters above they would never be what they are today without JK Rowling and Tad Williams incredible skill. I was left in suspense at all times and could barely put the books down before picking them back up gain to find out what followed. Spending time reading and writing will ultimately help us decipher what we like and dislike in a character, so again this is my number one piece of advice when learning how to write them into your stories. I would also like to finish on the theory that you should always go with your instinct. If a character forms in your mind and feels right whilst you write them onto the page then go with it.

As always thanks for spending the time to read through my post everyone, feel free to comment and I’ll see you all real soon.

Overnight Success – Really?

Hello everyone!! Sorry it’s been a while since my last post, I’ve had a super hectic week and the odd struggle to contend with. See I suffer with something called crohns disease which excuse the pun, has been nothing but a pain in my ass recently. I’ve also found myself getting de-motivated at times as the scale of some tasks become daunting, hence why I’ve spent the last few days away from my current projects and A.P Writing. But believe it or not I’m actually glad I’ve had these difficult days to deal with, because they’ve helped me put certain things into perspective. Now as I sit here writing this post I feel much more relaxed, motivated once again after a few days reflection and time spent mostly lost in good books. Over the course of those few days I suddenly came to realise that this dream of mine, the one in which I make it within the big bad world of writing, is no quick fix. So, with that in mind I thought this is as good a place as any to focus my latest post.

Somehow I’d gotten hooked on the belief that I was just going to achieve success and it would be quick in coming. Those notions make me look and feel rather foolish now, there is no set process that needs to be followed for success, only hard work and determination. Each individual writer has their own way of doing things, their own processes if you like, and with that comes varying results. Something that works for one writer might not work for another and this is what I’ve learned. I’d often find myself reading how one author had used a certain process and then think oh well that will work for me, how wrong I was. Of course, take what you can from another person’s success and use it to your advantage, but don’t fall into the trap of believing that it will always work for you too.

Now enough with the negativity, lets add a sprinkle of positivity, shall we? In time we will all achieve our goals, whether tomorrow, or ten years from now it doesn’t matter. Just try not to make everything so serious, that’s how you end up de-motivated like me, good things quite often take time. I truly believe that, and with time comes experience, we only have to look at some of the worlds most famous and successful writers to see it can be a waiting game. Tad Williams worked numerous jobs over many years until finally getting his big break, Christopher Paolini toured over one hundred schools all across America promoting Eragon before he found success. JK Rowling’s story is perhaps the most motivating, working on the first draft of Harry Potter for over five years, raising a young child while penniless and still managing to write. I think what Williams, Paolini and Rowling show us is that if you want to achieve those lofty dreams then you can, but you have to work hard and never let doubts or disbelief’s get in the way. I’m sure there where many times they wanted to give up under mounting doubt, but they didn’t and look at them now.

Thanks for taking the time to read through my post, I hope you can take something useful from it and don’t fall into the same mistakes as me. Feel free to comment and I’ll see you all soon.

Your Writing Voice

Welcome back folks, I hope you’ve all been making the most of the sunny weather, I definitely have. Today we’ll discuss a topic I personally feel is key to writing development, our own individual, unique, writing voice. The aim is to help you identify if possible, certain area’s that can add value to your writing, therefore improving any work you might produce in the future. Of course, some people reading this may already be doing all these things, congratulations if you are, but if not, hopefully you’ll find this useful and pick up a few tips here and there.

So, what is Your Writing Voice?
Put into simple terms your writing voice could also be referred to as your writing style. Readers will be able identify you from it, by the way you write, it’s something that with time and practice will mature, like a fine wine getting better with age. That said, you won’t have to wait years for everything to just suddenly fall into place and find yourself with a wonderful style, hard work is key here. Part of me also feels it comes down to confidence, a confident writer is more often than not happy with what they produce. They’ve created their own voice with which readers can identify, keeping them coming back for more.

So why is it important to have your OWN writing voice?
There are so many vital reasons for having your own writing voice, perhaps the most important one has already been highlighted above, it gives you a unique style that is yours alone. Why is that important? I hear some of you ask, well if you’re unique you’ll stand out, being just one of the crowd is not interesting, readers want something firstly, that they can relate to, and secondly that holds their attention. If your writing is the same as everyone else what makes you different? Why should they take the time to read your work and not something similar by another?

Now for me writing is quite a liberating experience, it allows me to express myself how I want, when I want and in whichever form I want, whether that’s writing this blog post or putting my time into the children’s story I’m currently working on. There literally are no rules, you can be as imaginative and creative as you want. However, it hasn’t always been so enjoyable for me and I will be honest with you, my first attempts at most forms of writing were pretty average to say the least. Why? Because my writing voice wasn’t my OWN, I was trying so hard to be like, sound like my favourite authors, my favourite journalists. I remember my mother reading an early draft of some vampire thriller I’d been working on and her response was ‘it’s okay but its very similar to everything else out there’. In that moment I realised that it was in fact the same as everything else, and pretty boring really. For me, quite new to writing at the time and inexperienced, I was transferring more of what I’d read directly from others than I should’ve been. This is not something to be ashamed of and in the end I embraced it, a lot of our first attempts are cheap copies of favourite stories, but instead of hiding them away forever, use them as a reference for how far you’ve come, how unique you’ve made that writing voice of yours. Now, I wish it was as easy as sitting down, picking up a pen and being able to write a masterpiece, wouldn’t that be great? Unfortunately, many things affect how quickly an individual improves though and I’ll touch on those now.

How to develop your writing voice
The two forms that have helped me develop my writing voice further are perhaps the most straight forward, reading and writing daily. Let’s focus on reading first, and why it’s so important. Reading allows you to see what works and what you enjoy, it will also show you what you don’t like which will encourage you not to use that in your own style of writing. Someone’s idea of perfection could be another’s idea of rubbish, and that’s the harsh reality, we all like different things, it’s about learning from others. I’m not encouraging you to try and copy other writers, just realise what you enjoyed about their work and why, think of it as having access to all the worlds best teachers and cherry picking what will work best for you. I also feel it’s important to read a variety of different material, my favourite genre by far is fantasy, but I will read crime, science fiction and non-fiction because they allow me to learn and improve.

Writing daily again is important, practice makes perfect right? The more we write the more we begin to see that writing voice of ours shine through, mistakes we make are easier to spot and confidence grows. I do understand with this one though that finding the time isn’t always easy, most people like myself work full time or have busy days to contend with, that’s part of what makes me so motivated to turn my writing into my lifestyle. There are a couple of things I do to make sure I have that time to write, learn and improve. Planning specific days during the week is my main combatant, I then know in advance that I’ve put that time aside to write and cannot let other things get in the way. I have also started to plan how long I’ll spend writing and exactly what needs to be written in that time frame. If you manage to spend 2-3 hours a week writing you’re doing well, sometimes that’s all I can manage what with work and my other commitments, but at least those hours are invested in yourself.

Constructive criticism is another way to help you expand your writing voice, it’s lovely when we give our work to someone and they tell us how wonderful it is, we feel proud, but is that always helpful? I will confess I’m just like you, I secretly hope for positive responses to first drafts of things, but I’ve learned that sometimes criticism is more useful. Nobody really likes to hear it because in an ideal world our writing would be perfect straight away, but that’s not really possible, even the very best authors have numerous drafts before a book can be released. Constructive criticism goes a long way to help iron out mistakes, and most people are only trying to help us improve, you don’t have to always listen but don’t let it dent your pride either.

Always have a notebook handy for when ideas might pop into your head, I never really took this seriously to begin with, I thought my day will be far to hectic to even consider my writing, but I was wrong. Ideas can come at weird and wonderful times, most of mine come when I’m at work and having something to jot them down in is important. As you become more confident you’ll start to find idea’s are pretty free flowing which is why a lot of writers seem to struggle switching off. If like me you find ideas coming to you while at work but aren’t able to just jot them down easily, there are other ways to still get them on paper.

I’ve been lucky or unlucky whichever way you look at it, to have worked in a few different jobs. When working for one of the retail giants if I had an idea I’d tear of a piece of till roll and write on the back, taking it away and then transferring it properly to my notes when I got home. This was only possible in periods of quiet, mostly in the mornings when customers were few and far between, but everyday It worked, I’d write my ideas down, practicing and developing my writing voice. My current job is far more hands on, I sell phones so don’t always have the time to get my notebook out and write something down, instead I open a word document on my phone and type it out, this is much faster, but again I only do this when I’m free to. If you work somewhere that doesn’t allow for this and you have a great idea, tell a colleague and ask them to remember it for when you’re on a break, always adapt to the environment.

Lastly, complete things like word searches, this allows us to learn new words that we might not have known previously, it also keeps our brain engaged. When I’m reading, I’ve started writing down any word I haven’t come across before, researching it and seeing if it’s something I could use towards my own writing. Therefore, improving my vocabulary and where possible making my style unique to me.

Make time for other things
Making the time for other things might sound a little contradictory to what I’ve discussed before but it’s important to get the balance right. Too much writing can cause us to become stale and frustrated, we do have other things we enjoy and we shouldn’t forget about those. I’m expecting a baby boy with my partner in September, we’re super excited and cannot wait, my writing will most likely take a seat on the back burner for a while when he arrives, but that’s not a bad thing, think of how motivated I’ll be when I return. That reasoning is precisely why we need to allow for those other forms of enjoyment in our lives, they allow us to see new things, think up new ideas and come back refreshed.

This could be a simple mountain bike ride or walking the dogs, give yourself that time to gain new life experience that will ultimately help with creativity in the future. That experience can only add to your own opinions and further improve your individual writing voice.

Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts and opinions everyone, I hope you all can take something away from them. Feel free to comment and discuss what I’ve just been through and also any topics you might want me to discuss in the future.


End of An Era – A Song of Ice and Fire

Greeting’s everyone, I hope you’ve all had a great day and are sitting comfortable ready for my next post. This will be quite an open piece in which I delve into everything Game of Thrones related, starting with how it’s impacted me personally and the many other aspiring writers caught up within its magic over the years.

So firstly, we have the age old debate that’s always popping up in everyone’s conversation. TV show or books? This for many of us is a difficult one, good or bad there is an argument to be made for both, often leaving us fans exactly where we started, still unsure. In my experience reading a book series first and then moving onto the TV adaptation afterwords works best, you’ve then had time to build your own interpretation of what a character looks and sounds like. Game of Thrones however is the exception for me, perhaps because I made the mistake of watching the show first before reading a single book. I’d never watched something so vivid and untamed on TV, almost as an afterthought it suddenly dawned on me that WOW if this is what the show’s like then the books must be out of this world. They of course where unbelievably good, one of my all time favourites, but I still found myself awaiting each episode with an excitement much stronger than any chapter in the books. Ultimately there is no right or wrong answer here, most peoples opinions will vary when asked as it boils down to personal preference. Spending time to enjoy George Martin’s work is what’s most important.

One thing that cannot be denied though is whether from reading the books or watching an episode, I’d never felt so inspired to write. Not once did George Martin swerve something difficult or unpopular, many issues still prevelent in our own society today form regular themes throughout A Song of Ice and Fire. The challenges faced with politics, poverty, social divide, wealth and inequality are far from easy things to discuss let alone base major story arcs on. It was this out of all of Martin’s skill that kept me intrigued, he wasn’t afraid of the touchy subjects that some authors sugar coated, he knew exactly the right amount of detail and when to bring it into play. Now again this is subjective as not every story needs to convey such complex subjects, but for Martin in my opinion it worked. Encouraging me and probably others to express ourselves more in the future. These topics are all a part of normal life, and Martin wove them so effortlessly throughout his series that I now make an effort to use them in my own, where I can. Childrens stories are giving me the most enjoyment from my writing currently, so I tend to tame these down and make them subtle. I don’t want to scare the reader but it’s important that they see the world’s not all sweet roses.

Now I’ll let you in on a little secret, I absolutely love dragons in epic fantasy, many think they’re a tad cliché and certainly if overused can sometimes become tedious, but for me they really brought A Song of Ice and Fire to life. Especially throughout the show where more often than not I’d tune in blown away by their story arc and how they affected those around them. This is just one small thing that will keep me coming back time and time again for more. I simply couldn’t write this post without giving them a mention, who could forget Drogon, Viserion and Rhaegal’s fiery reign? This was down to Martin’s effort in developing them all throughout the books and their steady growth during the show. They where badass , all three of them wreaking havoc. It just goes to show how incredible the brand is, for that’s what Game of Thrones has grown into, of all the incredible character development it was the dragons keeping me most engaged.

Lastly and perhaps most importantly I will touch on the legacy left behind by Game of Thrones. The reason I’m only touching on this is because I believe there is far more to come from both Martin and the shows creators David Benioff and Daniel Brett Weiss. We still have two books yet to be released and If reports are true, more than one spin off show planned for production. Add to all that the promise from Martin that his books will be steered towards a different ending when compared to the show and I’d say there is much legacy building still to be done. However even with all this on the way it’s hard to argue with what’s come before, the books and show have blazed a trail for so long now that it does feel a little like saying goodbye. Although it goes without saying that the story will live on, whether you find yourself re-reading the books hundred times or binging all 8 seasons at once, It’s inspiring stuff. When I’m struggling for motivation I often find it after picking up a piece of Martin’s work, the same can be said when I read Harry Potter. Occasionally reminding yourself what can be achieved with hard work, determination and a creative mind is all it takes. 

If you’re anything like me then you’ll need more worlds and dragons and drama to fill your inspiration levels with, so I’m going to highlight a few book series which have all those things in abundance. Firstly, The Shattered Sea series by Joe Abercrombie is a great place to start, there aren’t any dragons but it’s fast paced and full of betrayal. Targeted towards a younger adult market, I still found myself drawn in daily to see what had happened to my favourite characters, more than once shocked at how they’d changed. Secondly, and this is my joint favourite book series of all time, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn by Tad Williams. This series has everything any avid fantasy reader could hope for, full of twists, turns and magical creatures, it’s a real sword and sorcery, good versus evil game changer. Martin himself quotes it as one of the inspirations for A Song of Ice and Fire. A mention for Christopher Paolini’s Inheritence Cycle I feel is merited as well, a very engaing read and lastly, the Dragon Prince series by Melanie Rawn. This is a series I happened upon by chance, and I’m really glad I did as it’s soon becoming an instant favourite with me. Based on powerful families all vying for supremacy with some harbouring magical gifts. Plenty of romance and time spent on character development makes this series a particularly enjoyable read, and of course as the name suggests we see lots of dragons.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed my ramblings, if so feel free to leave a comment below along with anything else you’d like me to discuss in the future.