Thursday, 28 June 2012

Preparation Step 1: Finding a Muse.

What is the first thing a writer needs to prepare for a challenge such as this?
I have to admit when I sat down to start preparing for entering into Phase 1, my first thought was how many blocks of chocolate I would need to get me through the entire period. This is an important aspect to the writing process, but probably doesn't need to be planned more than a few hours ahead of sitting down to write. My local supermarket is just around the corner, and if I find I become agoraphobic during this experience, I can also have it delivered. One of the many joys of being a writer, you are always home to accept the internet parcels you have been ordering while supposedly doing research.

Therefore, I turned my mind once more to the preparation process, having assured myself that running out of chocolate would not be an issue. The major concern with entering into a project such as this is the fear of failure. I've put it all over the internet that I'm going to be writing 10,000 words a day, what happens if I sit down and nothing comes out?

To be honest, this had not worried me too much until I started to tell people of my plan. Even my loving family who know the ridiculous lengths I can push myself to out of pure stubbornness gasped and said 'But what if you run out of things to say?' 

'Not to worry,' I said, 'I have a secret weapon!' 
(Well, I didn't actually say this, I muttered something about having lots of good ideas and just not having the time or the discipline to write them all down, which was the purpose of this whole exercise if they had stopped to listen. However, I am a writer of fiction, what is reality to me when I can tell truth as it should have been?)

So, I will unveil for you now my secret weapon:

A Muse.

(Did you just read that anticlimactically? Really? Try it again and put a bit more oomph into it this time! Thank you.)

The concept of a Muse is obviously a very old idea, but I feel we have lost its true meaning and effectiveness. What use have I for a beautiful woman to make me feel jealous and disgruntled? Even a good looking man that just lay around on a couch all day is not really going to help me write.

To put it bluntly, what I want is someone else to blame. And I am not alone! That is to say, this idea is not entirely mine. Recently I was listening to a TED talk on creativity. The woman, and I can't remember who she was or what she did for which I apologize, was discussing the modern concept of the suicidal creative figure. Her argument was that it is only a reasonably recent phenomenon that creativity has been internalized to the individual. Previously an artist would have their muse, or genius, which was a supernatural being separate to them which gifted them with inspiration. If that artist then wrote a particularly bad poem etc., no one blamed him exactly, it was his muse which had let him down. Of course, he still didn't get paid and had to actually go and get a day job, but that self consciousness which leads to self blame and then to self destruction was not such an issue, so she argued. 

She then continued on that she had now developed for herself the belief in a personalized, external, supernatural muse. After a particularly hard day of bashing her head against a wall she called out to the world in general to take note, that she had kept up her side of the bargain and it was her muse which was to be held accountable. This then brought laughter, and helped her to relax and took off the pressure.

As I was listening to this talk I discussed this thought with God.

As you will find out soon enough, I am one of those strange beings that never got rid of the concept of the supernatural world. I converse on a daily, or even minute by minute basis with a divine being who listens kindly, puts me in my place when I'm being silly, and encourages me when I'm getting down. This whole writing thing was actually his idea. So when I heard this woman talking about blaming her muse, I similarly turned to the air and said 'I also want it known that...' and then I paused. 'that every time I turn up God gives me something to write!' And that was the first time I realiszd it was true. The only thing that has ever limited my writing was the amount of time I actually turned up to do the task. No matter how blank my mind was when I sat down, if I were faithful, God would turn up the inspiration.

Now, I am not at all saying that my work is divine in any actual way, but I am sure that I have a Muse who helps me and that I can blame if nothing is coming out. And that, just that, is a huge relief. It is really the only reason I am even thinking about this crazy adventure. I felt my Muse say that as much as I wanted to write, he would give me ideas and help. With an offer like that, why limit myself to just one book a year?

So, tip for today: find your muse. The ultimate divine being works pretty well for me, but find out whatever works for you, because the other way lies madness (or just lots of blank pages and a career as a bank teller.) 

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Concept

After years of being an aspiring writer, this year I finally managed to sit down and write my first novel. Yah. Writing challenge accepted and conquered. Now I could go back to my day job, which admittedly is not that thrilling but pays the bills.

Within a week I had started on the sequel.

I then attended a writers' workshop weekend and spent the Sunday night just jotting down all the plots for novels I had playing on my mind. 25 books. I had the concepts for 25 really very separate books. And that was without digging through years of creative writing journals or looking at statues of women with broken jars.

Well, that was fine. I would just do the sequel to my first novel (young adults supernatural story, still looking for a publisher, but it will happen my friend, it will happen) and then the sequel to that, to make a nice trilogy. God was on to something with the Trinity.

After I had finished that, then I might move onto one of the other series, in a few years. I had plenty of time. Though if it took me another 20 years to write the sequel, maybe not that much time.

But honestly, where's the fun in that? Where's the challenge?
If you plan to be so foolish as to consider a lifestyle as a writer, why then try and be sensible?

So I thought about it. Writing a novel is like a marathon. To me, running a marathon would be mind blowing, as I'm really more of a 10km fun run sort of girl. But for marathon runners the challenge then becomes ultra marathons. But a book which is 100 times longer than usually really isn't going to be a best seller. So, what do marathon runners do instead of ultra marathons? Multiple Marathons!
In my local Dymocks I found a book by someone who had run a marathon every week for a year, each in a different country. It was insane. So insane that it just happened to appeal to a writer.

Think about it, I have 25 books currently that I want to write, and once I start I know there will be more. As I am a writer, not a mathematician, I did some quick calculations and came up with 25 books a year, 100 books in 5 years. It took me a few minutes to realise why that didn't work, but the idea had stuck by then. 100 first drafts in 5 years. 20 books a year. Basically 2 weeks per book (including a nice 4 weeks of holiday, and 2 weeks every year of planning). Say the average book is 100,000 words (though my current series is young adults so slightly shorter) and I treat it as a normal job, that's 10,000 words a day, five days a week.
The fact that at my best while I was working on my first novel I reached 5,000 word a day has not scared me off in any way. The fact that I still currently have to work to pay my bills is only a small set back in my master plans.

Therefore, as of the 1st of July (yes, I'm working with financial years because I can't be bothered waiting for the end of the year, and hopefully it might give my writing the hint that it needs to be financially viable... one can always hope), I am going to take two weeks to plan out Phase 1: the first 20 drafts.

Along the way I intend to update this blog with the facts of life about being a wanna-be writer. I promise to do my best not to make it a pity-party. If I want to be insane and spend my time writing, I'll at least make it look like I'm having a good time!

Hopefully this blog will include the great advice and brilliant people I meet along the way, and tips on how to overcome anything that stops you from writing.



P.S. I should explain now: yes, my name is Elizabeth, but I have been called Buffy since I was born, which was long before any TV series or movies (high school was hard for all of us, in our own way). Since everyone else calls me Buffy, you may as well too.