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Writing (or not writing) During A Pandemic

Being creative during a pandemic can be a struggle. Not only is the world full of fear, but it’s also loaded with stress. If you can’t write, don’t beat yourself up about it. We’re living in uncertain times, making sure you take care of yourself and your family is the main priority. But to ease the burden, here’s a lighthearted post about how I’m dealing with the situation.

Keep active.

This translates to hoovering in my pajamas, washing the dishes while staring out of the window and daydreaming. I like to let the lemon-fresh soapy suds lull me into a peaceful bliss while I conjure up new plots.

Keeping the kids busy.

Signed up to Disney+ so we can all watch our favorite films. I’m taking advantage of being emotionally carried away by Marvel magic. Sigh! Chris Pratt. Besides, endless games of monopoly and Uno are getting old fast. It’s like an extended Christmas holiday with less booze.

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Keep expectations realistic

I now understand that two ‘family sized bars of chocolate’ are supposed to last a full week. Apparently, stocking up on treats does not count as essential shopping. BUT, when I next make the perilous ‘social distancing’ trip around the supermarket – I’ll buy more chocolate (and maybe booze).

It seems everyone else has gone baking mad, meaning bags of flour, paracetamol and loo roll has suddenly become rarer than gold dust (who would have guessed). Thankfully, I can’t bake!

Take some ME time.

This means hiding in the bathroom; to either have an emotional break down, or to read a chapter (or three) in peace. Suddenly, I understand why my husband takes so long on the loo. Sneaky!

Draw strength from the situation

Sometimes we need to pull on our inner reserves, knowing that we will get through this madness. A good tip is to call upon your Spirit Animal. I have called upon a hamster: I like to eat, hibernate, gaze at the world side and then do as little house keeping as possible.

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Humor can be a great way to cope with difficult situations. So why not get creative and share your spirit animal 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, 2020.
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Powerful Influences in Writing.

We explore the world around us through things we hear, see and experience. So I guess it’s natural to expect the current crisis to slip into our writing. Should we sensor our words to protect other peoples feelings? Should we avoid subjects, because they might be deemed inappropriate?

As writers we’re told to research, to write what we know, to have empathy for our fellow humans. This is how we learn to write from their perspective. With the Coronavirus pandemic on the forefront of everyone’s mind, it’s not surprising it slipped into my latest WIP.

I think in times of crisis it’s the artists responsibility to dig a little deeper.

~ Bruce Pavitt.

Yesterday, I did a hard cull of all traces of the conspiracy theory I’d just invented. It was too close to the bone, and too horrifying to write. I had palpitations thinking about the potential persecution I’d face.

I’m a strong believer that we don’t need anymore fuel added to the fear-fire. And yet, I’m aware of the benefits to writing about what scares you. The unknown, the strange, the grotesque. How else are we suppose to make sense of the things that form our day-to-day world?

There is no ‘right’ way to make art. The only wrong is in not trying, not doing. Don’t put barriers up that aren’t there – just get to work and make something.

~ Lisa Golightly

In this time of crisis, when everyone is maintaining a calm, sensible approach. I wonder how many writers are releasing some of that pent up anxiety and terror onto paper?

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Do you have a favorite quote you’d like to share? Are you writing about the current crisis? Has something similar slipped into your work? Please share your experience, 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, 2020.
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Figurative Language – Writing Tips

Ways to use language in literature.

There are many ways in which we can convey meaning within our writing, figurative language uses words to deviate from their literal interpretation to achieve either a powerful effect, or a subtle nuanced one. Writers use techniques such as metaphors to create powerful imagery with in their settings, adding depth and substance, whilst playing with the sound and flow of the words.

What’s the most common method of figurative language you use in your writing? And what would you like to explore more of? Share your preferred writing style 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, 2020.

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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.

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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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Developing Conflict and Resolution in your stories

Characters are the heart of a story, the plot is its skeleton, but the blood running through its veins is conflict. Without it, your characters have nothing to fight for, no arc will develop, and your plot will wither and die. In this post, we’ll explore the internal and external conflict to resolution elements that could be evoked to create a truly dynamic novel .

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The protagonists traits need to be carefully selected for each story. Their backstory will colour their personality, and mould their goals. It’s important to understand where their character journey starts, so that you can plan for their reactions by understand their limiting beliefs. You should know what they want, and what needs are hidden beneath.  

Within the protagonist is the delicate balance of their life’s story, and before the plots even started, there might be an internal conflict brewing beneath the surface. In other words, the conflict is Person vs Self. Do they struggle with a mental illness? Are they harbouring a deep, dark secret?

Perhaps the conflict is Person vs Society. Is your character desperate to escape the seemingly perfect, yet utterly dull family life. But if they leave to seek fame and fortune, they’ll be shunned by the community they’ve grown up in?

Other types of conflict to consider are: Person vs Paranormal = A spooky ghost story. Person vs Environment = A thrilling adventure where the character has to survive a hostile, unfamiliar environment. Person vs Technology = like the movie Terminator!!

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When we consider these questions, a shadow character will immerge, and from that, we can build a nuanced character using all of their backstory/traits/goals.  Once the conflict has been targeted, make it personal, give an emotional connection to the character, that way the reader will be invested in the resolution too.

Make the conflict specific to your character; creating a league championship with the idea of your hero and villain playing on opposite sides isn’t engaging. But show the reader why the characters believe winning will fulfil an unmet need and you’ve captured their attention.

We could use the same techniques to build our antagonist, possibly, with the intent of creating a character that will purposefully challenge our protagonist, Person vs Person. Perhaps, they both have the same goal, but with very different ways of obtaining it. If the protagonist is socially awkward, a brash and obnoxious antagonist would naturally create a conflict.

Keep creating tension by adding layers of conflict. Every obstacle creates an opportunity for triumph or failure. Keep raising the stakes, build barriers that prevent your protagonist from gaining his goals unless he overcomes the impossible. The pressure of time will ratchet up the pace of your novel. In order for your hero to win, they’ll have to suffer first. And remember to keep the conflict believable for your genre/world/plot.

Author Lorraine Ambers - fantasy romance writer

I love Person vs Person conflict, it works wonders in the romance genre, but I also use Person vs Society. What’s your preferred conflict method? Share your writing style 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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Hopes and Fears of a writer

As writers, we need self-discipline, perseverance and an unwavering faith in our abilities. However, as writers, we will be plagued with self-doubt, procrastination and writers block. Today we’re looking at some of the difficulties we face and how to combat the negative aspects and stay in alignment with our goals.

Let’s acknowledge some of the draw backs to being a writer. It’s often solitary; in the early days of writing a draft, the plot and our characters become our only companions. We shield ourselves from the awkwardness of admitting out loud that we are writers, to avoid the embarrassment of how we define ourselves. After all, at what point can we truly identify with being a writer, or even an author. When you’ve wrote a book? Maybe when you’ve wrote three books? Or perhaps when you get an agent? Possibly, until you hold the published novel in your hands?  

And so you keep your passion a secret, burrowed away in your fantastical worlds of words. While the fire is hot, your creativity soars and the story oozes onto the page. You feel brave and inspired, and why wouldn’t you, not only have you created conflict and tension for your characters to overcome, but you’ve also crossed those hurdles with them. Every character arc has been meticulously navigated and you’ve fuelled their emotions with your own.

Then we move onto edits; we get feedback and learn to handle criticism. Though it may pinch, you know in your heart the changes will strengthen your manuscript, and so you courageously persevere. Finally, you start submitting your work, but the rejections trickle in.

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Yes, you’re on Twitter and Instagram. And yes you participate in the blogging community. You’re doing all the right things, and yet, the nagging doubts that your not quite good enough seep in. Well-meaning family and friends ask about your novels, they want to know when they can read your book. And honestly, you’d like to know when that will happen too.

This is when the plague sweeps in. What if no one likes mywork? What if I’m never published? What if I write ten books and still feel like a fraud, a complete and utter imposter. What if my dreams never come true?

Take a deep breath my friends, you’re not in this place alone. Reach out to your community and they will respond with kind words of encouragement, because they have also visited this dark place. It will pass. The anxiety will disperse. If you’ve reached this desolate place, then it’s time to take a step back and practice self-love, self-compassion and self-care.

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The traditional writing industry is difficult to break into, and rejection stings. Indie authors juggle an incredible amount of responsibility, constantly striving to grow their business and reach potential readers. And writers battling their first novel have overwhelming new lessons to learn.

Whatever route you’ve taken, it takes guts to be a writer, putting your heart and soul into something for years that no one sees. Who knows what’s next? That’s not the point, look at where you’ve been and all you’ve accomplished. I congratulate you, I validate your struggles, and I’ll be here to celebrate your success.

Author Lorraine Ambers - fantasy romance writer

How do you deal with the negative side of writing? I’d love to hear your answers because I know how incredibly supportive you are.

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

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

Differences between chapters and scenes

Chapters and scenes play different roles in a novel, and you’d be forgiven if you believed the two were one and the same. But they’re not! Whereas chapters are obvious in a novel, scenes are subtle structural parts. In this weeks post, we’re going to break down the functional elements of scenes and delve into the creative aspects of chapters.

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Chapters are creative decisions put in place to develop pacing, and while they seem to hold an air of structure, really they serve to capture the reader’s intrigue and hook them into your story. This isn’t just employed at the beginning of your Novel but is continuously done at the start and finish of each chapter, to entice your reader to finish one more chapter, then another, until finally, they’ve invested in the story as a whole. For more tips on this read: How To Hook A Reader_from the first sentence.

Novels can be written with as little, or as many chapters as you desire. Long chapters give a sense of leisurely pace, while shorter chapters ramp up the tension. They can even merely contain a single sentence. While some novels break each chapter into a new POV, this is also entirely up to the writer.

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Scenes are made up of structural bones, containing the goal, conflict and subsequent disaster. Followed by the sequel; reaction, dilemma, and decision.

If your new to these concepts read these post, Four Ways To Structure Your Novel and How To Plan Your Protagonist’s Journey, where I explain them more fully.

Each scene is a domino. When set up correctly, scenes create a seamless line of cause and effect that almost effortlessly powers your entire plot.

  • K.M. Weiland

How you fit chapters and scenes into your novel is entirely up to you. A chapter can encompass a full scene, but it does not have to. Once you understand the differences between the two, you can develop the pacing, its hooks, and twists around the structure of the scenes. This may well depend on the needs of your story and the goals of your characters. Maybe you choose to divide the elements of a scene over many chapters.

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While the cycle of chapter breaks reveals the flow of the novel, scene breaks reveal shifts within the story. There are hard and soft breaks to help define those elements.

Hard Breaks: These are usually highlighted by two lines between paragraphs. Alternatively, in a manuscript, it will be represented by a hashtag. But in novels, you may well find a symbol, three asterisks or a long-dash in the centre of the page. These indicate one of the following: A shift in character POV, a large jump in time such as flashbacks, or the introduction of a new setting or scene.

Soft Breaks: These indicate a smaller shift and can be a subtle pacing tool, represented by one space between paragraphs. They are minor shifts in settings or time, and where the scene is continuous with its flow. E.g. the characters move to another setting whilst continuing their conversation.

If you’re confused by the whole confounded mess of scenes vs chapters, my advice is to play around and trust your instinct, you’re probably already on the right track. But mastering a new technique only serves to strengthen your craft. This is the joy of being an artist!

Author Lorraine Ambers - fantasy romance writer

How do you use chapters and scenes? Together, or do you like to mix things up? Maybe you’ve never considered it much and prefer to let instinct and creativity rule? Either way, why don’t you share your thoughts, 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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The Do’s and Don’ts of Writing Dialogue

The best way to immerse a reader into your story is directly through your character’s, experiences. Their senses and surroundings, but also their internal thoughts and reactions: Therefore, dialogue is an important tool for any writer.

We’ve already taken a closer look at How to Create Vivid Settings and How to Write Persuasive Content in your novel, so don’t forget to check those out.

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Here is my list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to writing effective dialogue.

Do – keep your character’s voice consistent: Every character thinks and acts in different ways, reflect this through what they say, they should have a unique pattern of speech or vocabulary. Equally as powerful, is what they don’t say. A long, drawn-out pause or internal reflection can work wonders.

Don’t – bog down the conversation with irrelevant fillers, like small talk or little noises that we tend to use; ‘Erm, um, well, yeh…’ there’s no room for it in your novel. Everything said and done must drive the plot forward with purpose.

Do – add conflict and tension to dialogue to keep the reader hooked.

Don’t – Litter your dialogue with people’s names, this is usually only done when a character is trying to get someone’s attention or to make a point.

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Do – punctuate and formulate your dialogue. Keep your manuscript consistent with the style of speech quotes used and remember to start a new line when there’s a new speaker.

Don’t – forget the importance of speech Tags. If the reader has backtrack to discover who’s speaking then you’ve lost engagement., a cardinal sin in the writing world. By adding a simple, she said or he said, at the beginning or end of the dialogue can make a huge difference. But keep them to a minimum, only use if the reader can’t tell who’s speaking.

Do – use Action Beats to show what your character is doing/ thinking by adding action and gestures.

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Don’t – convey your characters emotions with adverbs like, said angrily, sulkily, or sadly. This is telling, instead, show through the dialogue and action beats.

‘Get out.’ Ben curled his fists and grit his teeth. Or ‘Go away.’ Ben slumped further into his seat and stared at the floor.

Do – use the preference of said over other speech verbs such as, exclaimed, breathed, stuttered or cried. Keep it simple and let the dialogue and action do the talking.

Don’t – use dialogue as an opportunity for exposition: This is where the character explains the plot. It’s the worst kind of telling over showing.

Do – take advantage of the opportunity to reveal character insights; what does there speech tell the reader about their age, culture or background. In The Magicians by Lev Grossman, Janet makes pop culture references during her dialogue, not only does this reveal the era she grew up in, but it also reveals her witty sense of humour.

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Don’t – over use jargon, slang, or accents: It can become jarring to the reader. Whilst the odd Scottish infliction can be enduring ‘do you ken?’ Too much becomes a reader’s battlefield as they try to decipher each and every spoken sentence. Equally, slang dates and becomes irrelevant. Different cultures use different turn of phrases, so what works in one part of the world will not make sense in another part.

Do – check your dialogue by reading it out loud to see if it sounds natural and like something your character would say. It never hurts to act it out, so have some fun and get creative.

Author Lorraine Ambers - fantasy romance writer

Do you have any tips about writing dialogue? If so, please share them. 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, 2018.
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Benefits to Joining a Writing Group

There are many positives to being a writer. It’s a journey of discovery, evolving creatively and building a solid sense of self. But as every writer knows, there’s a downside. Mine is isolation resulting in poor mental health. It can feel as though we’re plundering through the dark, searching for a switch that will shine a light upon what we hope is a work of literary art.

So, how do we know when we’re good at our craft? Or when our manuscript is ready for submission? When we need to return for yet another round of edits?

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One of those ways is to work with likeminded individuals, offering critique, being a supportive shoulder to lean on and to congratulate when success beckons.

These are the benefits of a writing group.

There are many varying options: I’ve had great support from my online communities where I’ve found fellow betas readers. There are also Facebook groups and online forums where you can share your work and receive an honest critique.

But if it’s a more personnel touch you’re seeking, then a local writing group is what’s needed. Face to face contact has huge benefits, solving loneliness and can eventually lead to long lasting friendships. These groups tend to meet regularly for a couple of hours.

Creative writing groups are another avenue to meeting fellow writers, but maybe you’re wishing to converse with people already on the publishing route.

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Maybe there’s nothing like that in your local area. Have you ever considered starting a group yourself?

Here are my top tips to consider when starting out.

Keep it small. You’ll want to devote time to each member, which requires reading through their work and offering feedback. This means keeping your group intimate. You don’t want everyone to become overwhelmed with the amount they have to read and equally you want your readers to offer enough of their attention on your work. I’d suggest six members to allow for adequate attention in the two hour slot.

Be honest. The main goal is to learn and grow. That being said, criticism should be an unbiased feedback that doesn’t result in the writer feeling belittled, stupid or attacked. Be kind and don’t forget to tell them what works.

Don’t take criticism personally. Seeing your work through someone else’s eyes can be difficult, but hopefully you’ll nurture a group where everyone appreciates negative criticism delivered in a gentle way. Support and encouragement are just as important.

Meet regularly. Keep momentum alive. This is your dream and only you can make it happen: work for it.

Are you a member of a writing group? Share your experiences, what did you learn from it. You know I love hearing from you. Thanks for stopping by.

Author Lorraine Ambers - fantasy romance writer

Until next time, Much Love.

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