Jilly: Did You Watch the Royal Wedding? Why?

I’m writing this post on Saturday morning. I plan to be finished around 11.30am UK time. Then I’ll grab a cup of coffee, fire up the BBC’s live streaming and watch Meghan Markle marry Prince Harry and become Duchess of Sussex.

According to the BBC television commentators, the global audience for Harry and Meghan’s happy day may be more than a billion people.

A billion? Why? Continue reading

Michaeline: May 5th is Children’s Day in Japan!

Five carp banners on a pole in 1900 in Japan.

Carp streamers signify the hope that we can overcome the daily obstacles and become strong swimmers in our own lives. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

May 5th is traditionally Boy’s Day in Japan (Girl’s Day comes earlier on March 3), but became Children’s Day in 1948. It’s the last in the series of fixed holidays known as Golden Week, and what it means to me, in purely practical terms, is that I had a three-day holiday last weekend, got two days of day job in, and now I’m enjoying a four-day weekend. I am rested, I am recuperated, and I am stuffed to the gills with good story after a binge of: Jane the Virgin (5 episodes), Parks and Recreation (season 6, seven episodes), An American in Paris (Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron in 1951) and the first disk from the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice (I’m up to Darcy’s lousy first proposal).

I should be ready to do some writing. But I’m still floating around in a river of swirling ideas – grasping water and watching it dribble out of my hands. I’ve got enough ideas for a year; what I need is some containers – something to scoop out the water and give it a shape. Something to show off the ideas and mold them into something interesting. I need a good collection of bottles and colored flasks – I am writing fantasy, after all, so it’s not very good if I stick my water into a clear container. I need to preserve a little mystery, and boost my writing with some extra-special artificial enhancements.

Or not. Looking for pretty metaphorical bottles is going to take more time than the writing.

It’s Children’s Day, and I start remembering what my dreams were as a kid. I remember the first story I got praise for – I was in second-grade, and my beloved Miss Byleen said I did a good job on putting a caption to a beach scene. I spent two years in Panama as a pre-schooler, and I guess Continue reading

Michaeline: Inspiration from the Stars

An astrological description of a shapely youth (with a maiden behind him) explaining the connections of body parts with astrological signs. Very beautiful.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Believer or non-believer, I think it’s hard to disagree that psychics, astrologers and other people who deal in futures and “shoulds” must be good storytellers. They have to have pithy details that draw people in, and it’s very much to their advantage to be plausibly vague. By that, I mean they present advice that can be interpreted in completely opposite ways – but must never stray into an obvious black and white zone where the consumer of advice says, “That’s ridiculous! You can’t have it both ways!” A fortuneteller lets the listener do the heavy lifting and create a story that suits the listener.

So, let me link you to Teen Vogue’s new horoscopes for the month! (If you come to this blog late, you might try googling “teen vogue monthly lovescopes May 2018” and see if you get a link.) For the first time in weeks, I felt the vague tickle of story while looking at these predictions. “(G)et ready for a deep dive into your heart’s inner workings, astro babes,” the article warns us. It promises us rainbows and shadows, just like a good astrologer (and storyteller) should.

Each sign starts with a “Love Letter” – a pithy statement for the month that promises a good love strategy. Good ol’ Taurus, the first batter up this month: “When I’m willing to Continue reading

Elizabeth: Anger and Confusion

Blankets, blankets, blankets

As I mentioned in my New TV Show Squee post back in January, I’ve been enjoying episodes of the (new to me) show The Good Place when I have a little downtime.  In the episode I watched yesterday the head demon Michael (the Good Place architect) was complaining about humans and their fragile little bodies and ridiculous number of emotions.  “You only need two,” he insisted.  “Anger and confusion.”

While that can’t be right, I can’t help admitting that those two have topped the list for me more often than not for quite some time.

Possibly the last 404 days or so.

The news broadcast I generally watch when I get home from work begins each night with “it’s day xxx of the current administration,” oddly similar to the way broadcasts during the 444 days of the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979-81 began years ago.  It’s hardly something to engender happy, positive thoughts, not that the news makes any attempt to do so.  Consistently seeing people doing (and generally getting away with) bad things definitely leads to confusion and anger, making it a real challenge to maintain a level of positivity. Continue reading

Jilly: Cold Start Case Study

This week the Ladies have been discussing cold starts, sharing their tips and tricks for finding their way into a scene or story when inspiration is nowhere to be found. As you’d expect, their recommendations are as different as their personalities and writing processes.

Michaeline talked yesterday about the excitement of bashing two or three different ideas together to generate story sparks, and then using her own memories and experiences as kindling for those sparks.

That sounds like fun, but I’m not usually looking for story starters. When I commit to a character, I like to spend lots of time in their world. I’m like the worst kind of nosy neighbor: I want to know everything about everyone in the whole community. For Alexis’s epic I have at least five major areas to explore and a tentative series end date of some time in 2020.

I’m not a detailed planner like Nancy. I know roughly where I’m headed and who will join me on the journey, but until I start to write I don’t know the details. I have to cold start the beginning of each book, and I usually hit more icy patches as I’m writing.

I find that my writing troubles usually stem from my characters. If the story goes cold, it’s because I haven’t challenged them, or I don’t know them well enough to figure out how they’d react, and why.

Momentum helps me. If I spend quality time with my characters on a regular basis, they’re top of my mind and I learn a little more about them every day. If I take a break from them, I lose that proximity and have to spend time getting to know them all over again. Just like real people—if you don’t see someone for a month, or a year, it takes a while to get back into the swing of the relationship.

Right now, I’m the poster child for cold starts. Since my mum died in mid-January I’ve had neither the time nor the inclination to write. Add in some family downtime over Christmas and New Year, and I reckon it must be two months since I really got to grips with Alexis. I want to get back to work, but my story brain is feeling sluggish and unresponsive.

I decided to try Continue reading

Michille: Cold Start

HeronWe’ve been talking about cold starts this week. Mine process is a little unusual. It relates to the shamanic drumming journey I took to discover my spirit animal, which is a Great Blue Heron. Associations for the Heron are balance, exploration, renewal, and wisdom, among others. They are solitary creatures, which jives with the writing life, their stillness when they hunt lends itself to meditation and contemplation. So that leads into my cold start process. When I’m having trouble getting starting, I meditate and become the Heron. Most of the time, I’ll fly over the fictional town my story is set in and imagine what my characters are doing, how they are moving around the town, interacting with others, solving problems.

And that is a load of crap – complete fiction. I don’t do that. Continue reading

Nancy: The Over-Planner’s Approach to Cold Starts

When all else fails, you could try warming up the process with ‘a wee dram’.

Creativity is fleeting. Stories are ornery. Words are elusive. Writing is just damn hard.

Or so it seems on those days when the writing mojo is nowhere to be found. Diana Gabaldon refers to her approach to combatting this common writing problem as her cold start process, which she discusses in this clip. This week, we ladies are discussing our own cold start processes. So here’s Nancy’s guide to unsticking when stuck, in 4 simple steps.

Avoidance. When it comes to  bad writing days, I’m a firm believer in an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure. In other, words, I try to avoid them. At least, I do my best to avoid one of the leading causes of these creativity blocks: not knowing where to go next.

One of the things I found fascinating about the Gabaldon clip is that at the end, she announces that she realizes where her character is physically for the next scene. If I didn’t know where my characters were going to be for each scene of the next act, let alone the very next scene, I would spend most writing days crying in a corner. The joy that some creators find in writing in the dark and tunneling their way to their story would break my brain. It simply Is. Not. My. Process. Continue reading