Siren Stories: The Blog

Siren Stories: The Blog

Words On Writing

Whether you're looking to learn more about writing craft, or you're interested in life as a writer, Siren Stories: The Blog should give you plenty to read.

Check out the Siren Stories websites for novels, blogs and more, or email us contact@sirenstories.co.uk

Writing Through Doubt

Writing LifePosted by Jonathan McKinney Mon, January 16, 2017 21:10:10
You feel it, deep down. Your work in progress is garbage. No one would enjoy it. No one could enjoy it. It makes you apprehensive about returning to it at all, and so you procrastinate and remain in that place of doubt and frustration.

It's possible your story has real problems that you need to fix, and if that's the case I understand. You can work on that later, though, when your first draft is finished. This little piece of advice is about pushing through that sense of doubt you feel about the first draft of your story as you're writing it.

It gets me all the time.

I'll be writing something and I'll be stuck. I think the phrase that non-writers are obsessed with is "Writer's Block". When you're blonde Johnny Depp, drinking hard, in a cabin in the woods somewhere, and you're trying and trying but the paper in the typewriter contains nothing but insufficient first sentences.

It's a romantic idea, but I don't think it's a realistic idea.

I think that the sense of dread comes not from insufficient inspiration, but a self-created super-harsh judgement about existing inspiration.

Because chances are you know what your scene is supposed to accomplish. Chances are you know what the next scene and the subsequent scene are supposed to accomplish. But the problem is you've been staring at these events for so long, you're passed caring.

You read it back and suddenly all you see is garbage.

It's too literal, so you're a child.

It's not literal enough, so no one will see what you're doing.

The characters are flat. The "funny" lines are not funny. You're the joke. You're wasting your time, writing about people who don't exist, doing dumb, impossible things, and your work sucks.

In that state, it's real easy to stop writing and do something else. Not forever, but just for now. Until "the feeling" returns. That vague sense that the story is actually good. That vague sense that the dialogue is interesting. Maybe, if you entrust yourself to fate, inspiration will strike and you will be back on track, another time.

I argue with this voice in my head a lot. Especially while drafting. But the voice is wrong. The writing doesn't suck. At least, no worse than normal. (All opinions welcome.) The problem is one of perspective. You are too close to the work.

You know that feeling when you love a song? And you listen to it over and over and you know you're slowly killing your love for it but you can't help yourself?

It's like that.

Of course, if you spend so much time so close to your characters, they're going to start annoying the shit out of you. The dumb stuff they say won't seem clever, it'll seem moronic. And every little flourish you dare insert into the prose will begin to look like the crappiest block of crap that was ever crapped.

The fact remains: your characters need you to shove your hand up their puppet holes and make them talk because they're nothing without you. You know what it is they want. You know what it is they're working toward. So get to work. Not every line has to dazzle all the time. You know that.

Writer's Block is bullshit. It's just that feeling you get when you stop being your own perfect audient for a while.

Get to work.

All the techniques you admire in other writers can be applied to your own writing later. That's the beauty of the second draft! For now, make those damned people talk. Make them act. You know what they want. Now make them go and get it.

Peace and love.

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Self Promotion

Writing LifePosted by J.J. Barnes Fri, January 13, 2017 10:45:44
Writing a book is a huge achievement. Editing a book is, in my opinion, an even bigger one because writing is fun and editing is stressful. Getting that written and edited book released to the world and selling copies of it is the biggest achievement ever... well other than releasing my babies into the world which was a far more painful but ultimately more heart warming accomplishment. But the books come a really, really, REALLY close second.

Of course, I had naively assumed that once that release process has happened that your work is done. You can sit back, be inspired for your next novel, and watch the money roll into your bank account.

Alas, much like children, the creation and release is only a tiny part of the long term project. Much like children, it requires continual work.

Why?

Because writing the book is one thing, but if nobody knows it's there, they aren't going to buy it. And if they do know it's there, you then have to convince them that it's worth it. Because the market is saturated, there are thousands and thousands of books, and people only have so much time, and so much money, to invest in reading. Making people choose your book over any of the others is the challenge.

How do you do it?

Well this is the hard part, because if you're terribly British about these things like I can be, then the idea of screaming to the world that your book is fantastic, your voice is engaging, and that experiencing the two together will change their life, is one that makes your insides recoil in horror.

You don't want to be a pest. You don't want to be obnoxious. You don't feel comfortable tooting your own trumpet.

But if you don't do it, who will?

When I released Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit, my first novel, I was so proud of myself. And with good reason. As I said, writing and publishing a book is something many people only dream of doing so being proud of that accomplishment is legitimate. But now I am learning to tell people.


I used to rely on an occasional tweet. An apologetic reminder that hey, I wrote a book guys! I felt daft, people wouldn't want to hear from me. People would be annoyed that I was trying to sell to them. But it's not the case.

In today's fast paced world of social media, your announcements will be swept up in a sea of similar ones. Your tweets will whizz down people's feeds really fast and be gone. If you only announce it once every couple of weeks with a foot shuffle and awkward cough, nobody will notice.

So do it. Get over the embarrassment and shame and tell the world what you did!

I worked my arse off to write this book. I cried, I stressed, I studied. I wrote it and rewrote it. I put my heart and soul into creating a story I was so desperate to tell, and if nobody knows about it what was it for?

So I'm learning. I'm learning to share my pride, my accomplishment.

It's the same with my blog. Whereas I used to write a post and share it, then move onto the next thing because I didn't want to be a nuisance, I now share it again. I tell people I wrote. Because if you wrote it, it's worth reading. And people need to know.

So take to Twitter, Instagram what you've done, contact the media, tell the world. Be proud in your writing because you should be.

The market is saturated but it's for a reason. We, as a species, love to read. If we didn't there wouldn't be such an abundance of newspapers, blogs, magazines and novels available. We love to read, we lap it up. We crave more and more input and need people to put it out there for us.

So celebrate that, make sure the people looking find you, and imprint your confidence in your product all over this saturated market.

Be proud of your work.

J.J. Barnes xx
@JudieannRose
www.jjbarnes.co.uk
www.sirenstories.co.uk

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When Do You Write?

Writing LifePosted by J.J. Barnes Sat, January 07, 2017 08:33:56
There are so many tales of famous authors who need certain conditions to be able to write. Circumstances, locations, all perfected to give the optimum writing conditions to create masterpieces of literary fiction.

Agatha Christie famously wrote in the bath whilst eating apples. Marcel Proust only wrote at night from his bed. Maya Angelou wrote in a stripped bare hotel room with only a bottle of sherry and ash tray for distraction. They're famous for a reason, respected for a reason. They found circumstances beyond the ordinary to write in that produced the best possible results.

But what of me? Where do I write?



It's something I'm often asked. People imagine me hunched over a laptop, steaming mug of coffee at my side. Perhaps classical music playing or maybe I need a fresh breeze. Perhaps I have to wear a certain pair of socks or prefer the anonymity of a coffee shop in the city.

The reality is somewhat different. I write whenever and wherever I get the chance.

I am a mother of three under five, two daughters and a step son, and we have no nanny or au pair. We have a small house rammed to the brim with toys and children.

One of my most popular blogs on Rose And Mum And More, Why You're A Crap Mum, was written whilst the big two crashed around and I cooked spaghetti. I put the laptop on the kitchen counter and between shouting at my offspring to stop climbing on each other / stop pulling the cat's tail / stop climbing the walls, and between peeling, chopping and stirring, I wrote.

As I write this I am breastfeeding my smallest whilst the biggest watches television to my left and Jonathan McKinney writes on his own laptop to my right.

My second novel, Lilly Prospero And The Mermaid's Curse, was written primarily whilst I was pregnant with my youngest. I was very ill, spent a lot of time in hospital, and very tired. But whenever I was able to I wrote. I wrote and edited and wrote some more. The book was released exactly one week before the baby was born.



So what's the lesson here?

If you're a writer you're a writer. If you love it you will do it.

I write first thing in the morning, any time from 5AM onwards, before the daily bustle begins. I write last thing at night after the children are in bed and food has been eaten, before I fall exhausted into bed and prepare for the night feeds. I write whilst parenting, I write whilst cooking, I write in silence or in noise. If I have the writing in me it needs to come out.

My perfect writing situation? Calm, quiet, coffee. Enough background noise that I'm not distracted by silence, enough quiet that I'm not distracted by noise. Somewhere private but not isolated. Somewhere warm but not sweaty, comfy but not drowsy making.

But life doesn't always provide such circumstances. First, before anything else, I'm a mother. But next I'm a writer. I wake up thinking first about my children, and second about my writing. I fall asleep writing in my head, I narrate life experiences as if I were writing them, working out how best to describe emotions as they're had, dramas as they unfurl. I pull inspiration from daily life without any intention because writing is as much a part of my identity as my children are.

If you're a writer you will write. Sometimes you'll find it easier than others. Sometimes the words will flow more naturally than others. Sometimes the quality will be better than others. None of that matters. You can improve poor quality writing, you can't improve no writing.

If you're a writer you will write. Write whenever and wherever you are able. Write because you need to. Because if you don't write you'll forever feel incomplete, forever like something inside you is waiting to burst out. Write because you love it and because nothing in this life could fulfil you more.

Thanks for reading.

J.J. Barnes x

jjbarnes@sirenstories.co.uk
www.sirenstories.co.uk/jjbarnes.html
www.jjbarnes.co.uk
@judieannrose




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