Release your Inner-Hermit

It is not uncommon in fantasy novels to come across the hermit.  The isolated, anti-social individual who shuns other people for a peaceful solitary lifestyle of contemplation.  If you want to get any information out of a hermit, you need to win their trust and prove somehow that you’re worthy of it.  When I started this journey I realised there was a reason why I have a soft-spot for hermits; I can relate totally.

I have a great real life family and friends, but must admit I really need peace, quiet and headspace to write.  I have also been reticent to show other people my writing.  Will they like it, hate it or worse – be unresponsive?  I’ve been encouraged by many people to get connected with the on-line community and start opening myself up to new writing / reading relationships.   But the thought of doing it filled me with dread.  To make matters worse I didn’t know what the rules were, or how to really go about it.  Could I really let go of my inner-hermit?

Fortunately, a good friend, who happens to write one of my favourite writing blogs (Seeking the Write Life), came around and gave me a few lessons.  Within a few days I’d managed to cobble together a blog and made a leap of faith into the rapids that is Twitter.

It’s been a heady first week.  I can’t tell you how excited I was when someone came to visit my blog, and became a follower.  It didn’t even matter that it was my Mum.  But then others came too, people I didn’t even know, and I was euphoric.  The journey has well and truly begun.  But as complete novice there have been a few lessons to learn the hard way, and I share these here:

1. Just because you put it on the web doesn’t mean anyone will come and look at it.

So thank you to all those who took the time.

2. If someone sends you a direct message on twitter, telling you someone is spreading rumours about you – don’t believe them.

Day one on twitter I got such a message and clicked on it.  How could people be spreading rumours on my first day?  I’m not very exciting and so I have to admit I was curious – what could they possibly say?  The link took me to twitter and asked me to log in.  I was already logged in at the time, but as a newbie figured it must be because it was a “direct message”.   I logged in and finding no rumours, soon discovered it was a phishing site.  Then, feeling very foolish, had to go and change all my passwords…  On the same day I also friended someone who spamed me with descriptive titles of pornographic movies.  I discovered it is quite easy to unfriend people too and not feel at all guilty.

3. Don’t keep stalking your stats.

It’s true.  I spent an inordinate amount of time watching them and getting all excited because someone in Canada came to visit.  It has to stop.  I hope people come, but this is a journey I need to take whether anyone comes or not.

4. Spend more time writing than blogging.

It’s true I want to be a writer, and my writing time is precious.  So now that the first week is done, and I’ve not only survived but even made a few new friends, I have to set a few boundaries.  A time to write, and then a time to blog.   And a very strict time limit on twitter…

Wish me luck!

Have you got any advice for the newbie social networker?  And if you blog, I’d love to know if you had any unrealistic expectations, or misconceptions when you started out?

Sage Advice

I read a great post yesterday by Rachel Aaron: How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day.  I’m not sure 10,000 words a day is realistic for me yet, but Rachel’s advice was rock solid: Identify your most productive writing time and environment, get your objective straight before you start writing, and love what you write.

The last one in particular was a real light bulb moment for me.  Essentially what she was saying was; if you are bored writing the scene, the reader probably won’t like it either.

Now I’ve been stuck writing an important transition scene for weeks.  I’ve rewritten it time and time again from the POV of my main protagonist and nothing seemed to work.  My output dried up, and I was frustrated.  Taking Rachel’s advice I sat down and thought why don’t I love this scene?  What is it about this scenario that was putting me off?  The answer was blinding clear – my character was emotionally detached from the whole proceeding.  He didn’t want to be there, and deep in his point of view neither did I.  Yet the event itself was pivotal to the story and to the world-building – it had to stay.

Once I understood the problem it was much easier to resolve.  My story is told from multiple points of view and there was another character for whom this event was both positive and life-changing.  I re-wrote the scene from her POV, and suddenly the block was gone, the words flew onto the page and I feel like I’ve finally have a grip on the story again.  It’s not perfect by any means, but a great burden seems to have lifted.

So thank you Rachel Aaron, I am truly grateful!

How about you?  Have you received any timely advice lately? 

Lost for Words

Okay, so I’ve become quite bold lately.  I’ve started telling people that I write.  Hey, I’ve actually thrown off my inner hermit and put myself on the web.  And people, for the most part have been really nice.   But the thing is once you’ve put yourself out there people tend to want to know what you write.   And I’m afraid in my experience the conversation heads rapidly down hill from there.  It usually goes something like this:

“Wow that’s great.  What have you published?”

“Er.  Well I haven’t actually finished the book yet, but I’ve got this great idea and I know how it all ends.  I just need to find the time to finish it.” 

“Oh.  Well what’s it about?”

Now for someone who purports to like using words, this is when they usually fail me.  Things I’ve actually said include:

“It’s an epic fantasy.”  I’m very clear about the epic part.  I once had a very awkward conversation with a real estate agent who thought I was writing erotic fiction…

“Yeah it has dragons in it.”  

“There’s a guy, and his wife died and he makes some bad decisions.”  Wow what a hook.

“Actually it’s a trilogy…”

So as you’ve guessed, I am still working towards the putting together a pitch stage.  But in the spirit of this blog, and the sharing of the writing journey, I have put up a new page about my current work in progress – The Fall of the Kings  It has to be an improvement on the above.

To all the writers out there who might have gone through this awkward phase too, I’d love to hear how you handle the Question.  And for all those wonderful people who have tried to show a genuine interest – thanks.   I’m obviously a work in progress too!

Uncharted Territory

Truth be told, I’m a bit of a dreamer. Great forests of giant oaks, mountains shrouded in cloud, magical gemstones and journeys into the unknown have captured my imagination since I was a girl. I grew up on a dairy farm in Wharehine, north of Auckland in New Zealand – which to my young mind was full of magical places. A stand of native bush beneath our house was transformed one summer into the Kauri Kingdom, fairy tooth-brushes were collected from the purple-flowered creepers on the old pa site, and an old dinghy on the water-lily-logged dam at the bottom of the hill opened up a slow moving world of water nymphs and daydreams.

I was five the first time my Nana read me the Hobbit. Whenever I’d stay overnight with her, I’d get up early in the morning and climb into her bed for a story. Before she started to read, we’d pore over the map to get our bearings. My eyes were always drawn to the mountain with its little entrance and the dragon drawn above it – promises of both danger and treasure. I remember she’d wait until I was very still before she’d start to read. And I loved it all.  The rhyming names of the dwarves, Balin and Dwalin; Oin and Gloin: Dori, Ori and Nori???  There were so many of them and even then I remember they just seemed to keep coming. I was almost as overwhelmed by their number as Bilbo. But snuggled in with my Nana, I was captivated by Tolkien’s world opening up before me. I wanted to see the Misty Mountains and travel by barrel down the River Running. To believe that if faced with the same circumstances, I too could be a hero.

For years all I did was dream, and lose myself in other people’s stories. I visited Middle Earth, Narnia, Camelot and Prince Edward Island (okay it’s not a fantasy realm but it might as well have been in the hands of Lucy Maud Montgomery), where good fought evil and eventually emerged triumphant. I travelled to other worlds with Anne McCaffrey, back in history with Diana Galbaldon and fell in love with Richard Cypher in the early Terry Goodkind novels. But somewhere along the way, I realised I wanted to tell my own stories too. And one in particular is ready to be told.

So this is the scary part – the part that makes me feel like a female Bilbo standing on the edge of the great adventure –  the beginning. It’s one thing to dream of other realms. But to share them with you too? We’ll have to see.

This blog is about my journey. There and hopefully back again. To write the novel or die trying.

What will you discover if you come with me? I don’t really know. This blog might be about writing, or fantasy or other people’s great books that make me want to weep at my own baby-steps (Patrick Rothfuss). Or something else entirely. But I’m willing to find out.

I’ve shut the door behind me and stepped out of my comfort zone.