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Time to Write, Don’t Procrastinate

We know that daily writing goals and being proactive creates a great forwards momentum for our novels. Yet putting that into practice can sometimes feel like a mountain to overcome and before we know it, writing has turned from a wonderful pastime, into a herculean beast that we can’t face. Then even if we find time to write, procrastination takes over. Suddenly, writing time has evaporated into a missed opportunity.

Today I’m sharing my productivity tips in the hopes that they resonate with you: Let’s do this!!!

Set intentions There’s no point in half-heartedly thinking; I’ll try to write today. No. Make it a definite intention: A promise to yourself. And keep it. I set mine the night before, listing the top 3 things I intend to achieve the next day and allocate the time for those things to happen.

Carve out time. I’m a mother of two and a partner in two businesses. Life can get pretty hectic. But I make it my intention to write first thing in the morning, so no matter what unfolds through the rest of the day my creativity won’t be impacted.

Don’t get distracted. Put down your phone. Turn the TV off. Don’t nip to your friends for a quick brew (Oops, I’m already guilty of this.) Sit at your computer and begin. Even if the words don’t flow, and your characters are silent. You can always edit, develop setting and plot or research – just not on Facebook.

Take yourself and your writing seriously. By putting everyone else’s needs in front of your own, you’re giving off the energy that your writing isn’t that important. If you can dedicate your time to your kids, running around for their needs. Dedicate your time to a job, because you need the money. Dedicate your time to your partner, because you want a healthy relationship. Then you should apply the same principles to yourself. Your passion. Your calling.Your love for words and literature make you who you are. Own it and believe in yourself. Even if it’s only for half an hour on your lunch break, or in the car while your kids play sports, or cutting out one Netflix show. (I love Netflix; they have great story lines… it’s research.)

Recharge your batteries and don’t stress. We are notorious for burning out. Pouring our heart and soul into a novel and balancing family, work and personal life can take its toll. We are only human and life happens while you’re making plans. Relax, recharge and reboot your creativity. Although this could be considered procrastination, it’s different. If you’re running on empty, you need to refuel. So watch movies, walk in nature, laugh with friends and read books. It’s good for the soul. And a happy writer makes for a more productive writer.

Thanks for reading. Do you have any tips on creating time to write and how to stop procratination by? If so, please share, you know I love hearing from you.

Until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2018.

Querying Agents: Should you Hire an Editor First?

So you’ve completed the first draft of your novel, edited it the to best of your abilities and now you’re ready to query. Maybe you’re further along than that – perhaps the rejections have started rolling in and you’re wondering if you should hire a professional. And here is the important question: Would hiring an editor help you get representation from an agent or perhaps even lead to becoming published?

After my recent one-to-one with an editor I’ve battled with this question. Some of the advice I received resonated with my gut instinct. Great. Whilst other parts I’ve debated with my betas, toyed with changes and generally procrastinated over. Who’s opinion should I trust more, someone in the industry for 20yrs or just little, blundering novice, me.

On Friday I attended a writing conference with a fellow blogger from Uninspired Writers and we had two agents from Greene & Heaton give us their opinion on the matter. Working with any professional can be a costly matter, which may well be outside of many writers grasp.

But a far more interesting point was; agents are used to working with writers who have a rough draft, it’s their job to know how to edit a manuscript to make it shine. Provided your MS is polished to it’s best and has no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. By implementing an editor’s changes you’re effectively adding a third persons subjectivity to the mix. You may end up editing out parts that the agent would have loved and add elements they hate.

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These points aligns with previous advice I’ve heard, which is, by working with an editor before submitting your manuscript, it is no longer authentically yours. Because it has been enhanced by someone else. The agents may well assume your work is up to scratch only to discover that it is not.

I think these pose an interesting conundrum. Who amongst us wouldn’t want to jump the queue and get ahead? But is that really benefiting us in the long haul. On the other hand, having areas in our manuscript highlighted as weak by an editor, critique partner or beta, especially if we had a niggling feeling it was, can only benefit us.

Remember advice is subjective, an agents preferences is subjective, heck this blog post is subjective.

Listen to that inner voice and have faith in your journey. If you want to work with an editor, do it and learn from it. If you’re struggling with someone’s feedback, because you believe those elements are integral to your story, listen to your gut instinct and leave them in your story.

You are the master creator of your world – in fiction and reality.

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Have you heard similar advice from professionals? Or have you worked with an editor and known in your heart their changes would help or hinder your story? If so, share them with me, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
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Top Three Tips On Mastering Character Traits

As writers we are actively encouraged to portray a variety of characters, with varying shades of positive and negative traits. The characters may have different skills from us, they may have more or less qualifications, and they will have undoubtedly gone through experiences that we as the writer have not. If every character only echoed our own lives, mimicking the qualities we have, the story would fall flat.

One of my readers recently asked me a great question: Lorraine, do you think it’s OK for a writer to  attempt to portray a character with qualities the writer doesn’t have? For instance, I am not funny at all, but I would love a secondary character to have a sense of humor, which means there is a risk the character will sound lame rather than really funny. I have read a short story where the character was supposed to be wise, but the writer was not particularly wise, so the wisdom was on the ‘weak side’. Do you think it is better to stay away from qualities you do not possess or to try anyway?

As writers we need to portray meek, strong willed, sarcastic, funny, intelligent or even obsessive characters. It is inevitable that we will write a character we are not familiar with, and so, here are my;

Top three tips for mastering character traits.

Watch and listen to other people.

It’s not only what people say, but how they say it. Their tone and volume of voice add to the weight of the words spoken. Possibly more important will be what their body language says. It’s true, writers see the world through different eyes, because these subtle things need to be taken into account. We can make a character more funny by his antics and the response of his supporting characters.

Research the subject matter

There will come a point when we need to know more about a specialized subject matter, so that we accurately portray our character to our readers. Whether its about science, motor sports, mental health, how to fly an airplane, or simply how long it takes for a broken bone to heal. If you don’t do your research, there will be glaring holes in your story that your readers will pick up on.

Thankfully we have search engines at our fingertips, with a few clicks and the correct tag words we can pull up vast amounts of knowledge. So take the time to research, don’t just guess.

Alternatively, speak to people who know first hand what it’s like to be homeless, or to be a policewoman. Tell them you’re a writer doing research, and that you wish to portray your character with accuracy. They might be willing to help you.

Hone your craft.

Read books and ‘how to’ blog posts, listen to podcasts, or take creative writing classes. No matter how many novels you write, you are always going to learn something new. Write more, read more, and be brave enough to seek feedback.

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How do you make sure you portray characters correctly? Have you avoided a certain trait because you weren’t sure how to write them? Share your experiences with me, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
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The Courageous Writer

Writer’s and Artist’s are seen as fragile creatures, introverted and mysterious. But those are simply stereotypes; artists come from a multitude of backgrounds and have different personality traits. One thing we do all have in common is courage and persistence.

They say writers and artists see the world differently. Every voice we hear, every face we see, every hand we touch could become story fabric. – Buffy Andrews.

I love the last quote, the more I write the more I realize the truth in those words. I watch people and observed their behavior, I begin to ‘borrow’ their traits. How they reacted to bad news, how they hold their posture, and then I start to morph those borrowed pieces into characters.

When did this happen? When did I start enjoying psychology so I can channel it into my writing? When did I first observe my emotions so that I could transfer them on to the page? Suddenly, poetry is important because I want to know how to describe a simple object and give it meaning.

Jacob Nordby Quote about Artists

All of those things are fascinating, but other facets of our journey have become more apparent. In order to achieve our goals of becoming published, we constantly put our art out there: Submissions, beta readers, critique partners, writing groups and competitions.

We struggle with self-doubt and crippling anxiety over the future of our novels. All the while we work on; pressing our fingers to the keys, tapping away in the silent hours in between our real lives, where family and work commitments take president.

We continue to push through our fears, purging our darkest secrets into our written art, allowing our glittering hopes to shine through our WIP. When criticism pinches, or the rejections roll in, we fight on to make our work more succinct. Through our vulnerability, we risk everything in pursuit of our dreams, knowing that failure is inevitable. Yet when we fall, we brush the dust off our knees only to rise and continue.

My fellow artists: We are courageous. The next time you type on in seclusion, feeling the burden of isolation, I want you to congratulate yourself for being brave, for persisting, for following your dreams, because many people simply never bother.

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So my fellow artists, do you believe you see the word differently? Have you realize your own bravery, and if not, why not? Share your experiences with me, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.
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Writing The Perfect Opening Chapter… and what not to do

The first chapter of your novel is important; its where you’ll hook your reader, introduce your protagonist, hint at the antagonist, reveal their goal and introduce the stakes. And that’s not all, writing the first chapter will set up the rest of your novel, linking all of the plot points together.

Are you overwhelmed yet? I know I am. I thought I knew how to write a great first scene. Turns out, I was wrong and in today’s post I’ll tell you why.

We’re constantly told not to open with a clique start: No starting in the middle of a battle scene, waking up from a dream, or with lots of internal monologue while your character does something mundane like washing the dishes.

But we’re also told to show the character in his ordinary life, just before a pivotal point which will start the story and raise the stakes. BUT make sure it’s not the inciting incident, because that comes a little later. What?

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The first chapter should focus on your main character, don’t clutter the scene with secondary characters, unless they play an important role. Eeh?

Make sure you give the reader all the details; age, weather, time of year, appearance, their fears, a goal and, of course introduce the stakes. BUT don’t bog down the scene with exposition. Right?

World build: Know the rules of your magic system and adhere to them. BUT don’t throw too much at the reader and confuse them.

Start with an action scene to hook the reader, something to show the character actively engaging with the world around him, be careful not to write a passive character that gets led alone. BUT remember the reader doesn’t know the character yet, so why should they care if they get killed in battle.

Please, no prologues. Unless it adds to the story, them yes give the reader a prologue.  Ahh, screams at the conflicting advice and throws a fluffy pillow across the room.

Whilst wending my way through the S**t storm of conflicting information, I wrote a great chapter, but I also got it seriously wrong. I did not ask, Why should the reader care about my Main Characters?

You see, I’d used the checklist of Do’s and Don’ts, but completely forgot the power of empathy. We need our readers to become invested in our characters, right from the start.

And there we have it writer friends, there is no one-stop-post to fix your first chapter. It takes persistence, a continuation of building upon your craft, getting honest feedback, and practice, practice, practice.

Never give up, my writer friends. I believe in you.

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Please share your experiences of writing that all important first chapter, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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The Five Stages of Receiving Editorial Feedback

As much as we desire the truth about our writing it can be painful to hear the truth about our work. Of course, it can help us grow and become better, it how we learn and develop our craft. It’s a necessary part of the experience. If I’m being honest, I feel as though I’ve passed a benchmark in my journey, because I’ve dreamed of working with an editor, I just hadn’t expected such clarity from a brief one-to-one at a book fair.

Here’s a fun infographic poking fun at a writers experience of receiving critical feedback from an editor and the emotional process they go through. I hope you enjoy.

What have your experiences with editors been like? Good or bad, let me know if it helped you grow as a writer, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.
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Surviving Writer Purgatory

Sometimes life outside of being a writer becomes hectic, and juggling the many demands of life takes its toll. In times like these something has to give, and I’ve already cooked too many oven chips for dinner and stopped walking my dog every day.

While no writer wants to sacrifice their writing time, that precious outlet for their sanity, there comes a time (usually around doing our annual taxes or Christmas) when they simply must take a short break.

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Here’s my four top tips to help you survive writing purgatory.

Stop berating yourself, this is only temporary: By removing the addition stress of unrealistic goals, you’ll actually increase productivity, be better at problem solving and be back on track before you know it. 

Prioritize your responsibilities: Make a list of all that needs to be done and cut out the unessential. Oh how I wish the world were fair, and that my children would understand that writing was my lifeline, unfortunately they insist being fed and having clean clothes.

Don’t stop planning and plotting: Just because you can’t physically find time to write doesn’t mean you won’t get the opportunity to daydream. Driving somewhere? Use that time to develop a secondary character. Painting a room. Figure out you climactic scene. Stuck waiting in the doctor surgery. Gather inspiration by watching how the receptionist deals with patients, or how the toddle runs his mother ragged, and use those details in your manuscript.

Repeat this mantra: I’m only human. No one’s perfect. I’m a writer, even if I don’t write every day. It’s going to okay.

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What do you do when life gets in the way of your writing? I’d love to hear your coping techniques, so please share them with me. 

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.

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Writers, Don’t Let Doubt Stop You!

There comes a time in every artist’s journey when crippling self-doubt sets in. It’s an agonising period where all your hopes and dreams become overshadowed with fear. But before you scoop out the ice-cream and take cover in your bed, vowing to never write again, try a few of these techniques.

Keep track of your success.

When we’re gazing over the yawning expanse of our final destination, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with everything set before us. After all, there is no guarantee of our success. However, taking a look over your accomplishments will offer a glimmer of hope, proving that you can excel at what you set your mind too. Did you ever imagine that you’d write a novel?

Turn to your community.

Sharing your problems can help to alleviate them. Maybe you choose to turn to a blog post like this one, or to connect with like-minded individuals at a writing group, or through your social media. Just knowing there are other people who battle with the same demons may be enough to take the edge off. Remember this is a normal issue, it’s a universal fear, and it’s going to get easier.

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Don’t let fear be the driver

Acceptance in any situation allows us to relax into the moment and let go of our expectations. Easier said than done, however, if you can learn to live with the uncertainty, the doubts and fears, you gain back control to steer your life in the direction of your choice. Whenever I’m crippled by doubt, I work on releasing it by moving forward, redefining my goals, making small steps. Before you know it, the resistance will disappear and you’ll be gliding side-by-side with your creativity.

Take care of yourself

Sometimes, doubt comes at a time in our lives when we have internal and/ or external stress. Learning to listen to yourself, asking for help, or simply knowing when to slow down can be the greatest act of self-love. During those hard times, I choose to read, not only to escape the world but to have it redefined in words that often mirror my trials and tribulations. Reading is wonderfully cathartic and equally as important as writing, so I don’t have to feel guilty about taking time out.

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How do you combat self-doubt? By sharing your tips, you’re helping the writing community, so don’t be shy, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.

 

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A Writer’s Dream Wish List

We writers are mercurial creatures, each with our own unique quirks, aspirations and preferences that drive us to create stories. Have you ever wondered if all writers desire the same things? I’ve created a fun, whimsical infographic that contains seven, unrealistic desires of a writer. Enjoy!

Do you agree with any of these wishes? Or perhaps you have something different to add to the wish list.

Why not share them with me, you know I love hearing from you.

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Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.
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Writer Tips on How to Choose A Captivating Title

The title of a book is important; it has the capacity to entice your audience, or have them reject it simply because it did nothing to intrigue them. I don’t know about you, but I find choosing the right title a nightmare. In this post we’re going to offer some tips on how you can hone your choices and captivate your audience with a just a few words.

how to choose a captivating title

Finish your WIP: Sometimes the title simply comes to you, a miracle gifted from the literary gods. If this happens cherish it and continue onwards in your writing journey. However, this is rare! Often you’ll need to finish writing the novel before you can look back and reflect upon the story.

Do your research: Look up other titles in your genre. Not only will this give you a clue as to what works, but it will also tell you your choice is already taken. There’s nothing more disheartening than having an excellent title in mind, only to discover it’s already in use within your genre. Not the smartest move, especially if the other author is a runaway success.

It’s all in the name: You may choose to use your main characters name as a title, like the famous Harry Potter. Perhaps you could use their mythical heritage, like The Hobbit. Or name it after the place they visit or live in, like Caraval, and if you haven’t read any of these magical series yet, I highly recommend you do.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Get poetic: Use alliterations, internal rhymes, slant rhymes and poetic prose. Listen to lyrics, pay attention to movie lines and don’t be afraid to play around with words. Be careful not to copywrite, but you’re an artist, so have fun and get creative.

Themes: Once you’ve finished your book you’ll get a clear picture of the themes, key events, and any related words. Check out my post on defining themes in your novel for more clarity on the subject. Using a single word as your title can be evocative and punchy, try an adjective, a noun, or a verb to sum up the actions or feelings of the book.

Characterisation: Take a closer look at your main characters, what are their key traits and how do they correlate to the story, and to each other. Then use them as a title, this is how I named my second WIP Mischief and Mayhem, click on the link to find out more about that work.

The Positive Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi

Key phrase: There’s nothing more satisfying than reading a novel and coming across a sentence that encapsulates the story or characters and relates to the title. Pay attention when writing or editing, and pick out any phrases that could work as a title. Perhaps a resonant, unusual phrase carries meaning for your work.

Check out a thesaurus: Maybe you’re close, you understand your character and have pinpointed the themes. You’ve loads of ideas, but something is not working and the words land flat. Try using a thesaurus to mix it up a little. Word to the wise, be sure to check each word in the dictionary for clarification, otherwise you could end up with a title that makes little sense, and worse still, has no relevance to your story.

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How did you come up with your title? Please share your experience, it’s fascinating to know how other writers make their choice. You know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.