Writing Through Writer’s Block…Five things to do when you hit the wall.

writers block

 

So, today I sent in the completed manuscript for the first book in the ‘Yoga Cafe’ small town mystery/romance series to the editor at St Martins Press. Right on deadline.

Just. Trust me, this time two weeks ago, I didn’t think either me or the manuscript would be in fit shape for anything. After eighteen months of non-stop production, encompassing four full-length novels, two writing guides and seven novellas, I was done. Just done. Suddenly, writing a coherent sentence was behind me. I had hit burn-out big time.

And it couldn’t have come at a worse possible time.

I was just weeks away from the deadline to submit, and two chapters from finishing (which left me precious little time to do any actual editing). Now this wasn’t the sort of writers block where the ideas just aren’t coming; after all I had plotted this book down to every last red herring and knew exactly what needed to happen in those final climactic chapters.

I just couldn’t write. Every word was painful, my dialogue felt wooden, my phrasing uninspired, and I suddenly loathed my previously beloved heroine with a vengeance. I hated the manuscript, and myself, and everything to do with writing. I was, I decided, a complete fraud, and had just been kidding everyone for the last year and a half. I had hit the wall, and couldn’t see a chink of light anywhere.

So how did I get through it? Well, first of all, I took a couple of days off. Even though this was putting me even further behind, I knew I had to get away from the laptop. So instead, I decorated the dining room. The physical movement and focus on something entirely different seemed to help; the exact words I needed unfolded before me as I wielded my paint brush and roller, dropping into my mind as though they had been there all along and I just hadn’t noticed them. Even so, when I sat down at my desk to get them down on paper, I felt faintly nauseous. So before I started work, I Googled the subject of writers block and fatigue and was surprised to see just how many outstanding authors have hit that very same wall.

‘Writing is something ..that happens, or it may not happen…you don’t even know if you’re going to be able to’ Charles Bukowski.

‘I’m sitting in the office trying to squeeze a story from my head. It’s that type of morning where you feel like melting the typewriter into a bar of steel and clubbing yourself to death with it.’ Richard Matheston.

‘You have those days where you sit down and every word is crap.’ Neil Gaiman

‘What I try to do is write. It might be the most awful and boring stuff. But I try…then the Muse says ‘Okay, I’ll come’.’ Maya Angelou

‘Get away from your desk. Be patient.’ Hilary Mantel.

That cheered me up. And then I realised I was being pretty damn ungrateful. ‘Poor me, how awful to have a short deadline to meet for my fourth full-length novel, published by a major publisher as part of a five-figure, two book deal!’. Errrrr…..I had to remind myself how many writers would love to be in my position, how blessed I was to even have this particular problem. Finally, I reminded myself that I’m a good writer. No literary genius certainly, but a good writer. I reread some of my favourite bits from earlier work, and my (nice) book reviews.

Then I wrote and edited my final chapters. Now, I’m taking a month off. Then I’ve got a novel to write.

So in brief, here’s my five tips for getting through this type of writers block or fatigue.

  1. ) Take a day or two off. Really, just leave it alone.
  2. ) Do something physical, something grounding. Decorate, garden, cook….something that’s creative, but in an entirely different way.
  3. ) Take inspiration from your favourite authors. They’ve probably been there too. They’re still standing.
  4. ) Be grateful. Whether it’s your first ever short story or your tenth published novel, take a minute to be grateful for what you are, and the talent you have, and the fact that you even have the luxury to be worrying about this. Your situation could be far worse.
  5. ) Remind yourself of your achievements and happy moments to date. They don’t have to be literary.

Now…go write.

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Cover Reveal for ‘When I Wasn’t Watching’ pub’d 4th August

When I Wasnt Watching

 

Cover for ‘When I Wasn’t Watching’ which initial reviews have described as ‘incredible’ ‘heart-wrenching’ ‘powerfully gripping’ and ‘an absolutely brilliant read’. Pub’d 4th August by Harlequin Carina, initially in ebook. Here’s the blurb….

 

Every parent’s worst nightmare…

Eight years ago, Lucy and Ethan Randall’s little boy, Jack, was abducted and murdered by teenager Terry Prince. A moment’s distraction had ripped a family apart – and with the loss of their son came the collapse of the Randalls’ marriage. Tortured by memories, Lucy was left to battle her grief while raising her remaining son alone.

Now, Jack’s killer has walked free, giving him the second chance at life that little Jack never had. Lucy’s wounds newly opened, her world is turned upside down a second time when another child goes missing – and she can’t shake the suspicion that Prince has struck again.

When DI Matt Winston, the same officer who found Jack’s body, is assigned to the case, the echoes of Lucy’s past grow ever more insistent. Bound by their tragic shared experiences, Matt and Lucy grow closer – and become fixated on bringing the culprit to justice. But now history has repeated itself, answers seem even further out of reach. And for Lucy, it’s time to face her ghosts, and ask the most terrible question of all: can she ever really forgive herself?

 

A Year after Publication; How Does it Feel?

An aspiring writer friend asked me; How does it feel, being a published author? Where to begin… It’s been just over a year since Wicked Games was published. In that time, it’s sold a respectable few thousand copies and I’ve signed a major book deal with Thomas Dunne in the US, published a trilogy of historical novellas with Mills and Boon, had a paranormal novella series accepted with Xcite Books, got a contract with Harlequin for my first crime novel, and written two writing guides on the back of being taken on as a writing tutor for the Writers Bureau. Modesty aside, that’s pretty damn good. Especially considering that I was lucky enough to get an agent and a book deal within a few months of deciding to try my luck at ‘being a writer’. So I didn’t have to go through the horrible round of rejections before getting that first deal (though I’ve had a few since). So yeah, that’s pretty life-changing right?

Well, kind of. The thing with being a writer is that it is, by nature, a solitary pursuit. Getting your first deal is the best feeling in the world, that ‘I’ve made it!’ moment that personally turned me into a crying, gibbering idiot for a few days.

The thing is, nobody much cares but you. And of course, your family and friends, but they will soon get fed up of hearing about it. Getting your first deal is like winning the X Factor, only the audience has gone home and the judges have fell asleep.

Then there’s the hard work. Writing a book isn’t easy, as I’m going to discuss in the next post. It can be downright torture. And there’s the long wait between signing that contract and seeing the book on the shelf. Not to mention the fact that you’ll be waiting a long time for that royalty check and, in an economy where publishers are paying smaller advances and are running scared from the indie press/self-publishing/ebook era, you’re not going to become a millionaire overnight. If ever. I wasn’t really prepared for all of this, and there have been times over the past year when I’ve wondered if being a published author is all it’s cracked up to be, and if dreams aren’t sometimes better remaining as just that.

Then, there are those defining moments that make it worth it. Seeing my book in the library, in the major bookstores, even on my grandmothers shelf. In my local Waterstones…

KLawrence_now

Having usually reticent family members get all emotional and tell you how proud they are. Getting interviewed for the papers and radio, if it’s a big publisher. (I made the Daily Mail in the end, but started with the local Telegraph, which is more usual). Reading good reviews (let’s not talk about bad ones….) getting a stall or even a speaking slot at literary festivals, your book launch (mine was at the Alley Cat club in London, see below) and having people you may never meet, in different countries, Tweet or Facebook you to say how much they enjoyed your book. Meeting other authors you’ve long admired and realizing you’re now one of them.

book reading in London

So there are highs, and there are lows. There’s an emotional cost, especially when you’re in the middle of writing a book and your children think they’re orphans and your partner feels like your having an affair. Some people will amaze you with their pettiness and jealousy. I personally had a sister-in-law who has never been particularly fond of me decide to post horrible reviews of my book all over the internet (without actually bothering to, like, read it). She still hasn’t apologized, and probably never will. Such stories are far from rare. Other writers who have yet to be published may hate you. In short, you have to grow a thick skin pretty quickly, and as most writers tend to be ‘sensitive types’ that’s not easy either.

But I’m not trying to put you off. A year in, I’m not bailing any time soon (I’m on a deadline and under contract for a start). I’m just warning all those chasing that first deal…it will change your life, but not in the ways you might expect. Will it be worth it?

Yes……!

 

Review: Wicked Games by Kelly Lawrence

A year after publication; here’s one of the first reviews of ‘Wicked Games’ by the lovely Paige Matthews.

Paige Matthews

I had Ms. Lawrence on the Author Showcase about a week or so ago, maybe two promoting her new book Wicked Games. Here is my review I owe her!

20130627-212025.jpg

Wicked Games by Kelly Lawrence

Rating: 4.5 Stars out of 5

Book Description:A red-hot account of how an everyday woman is seduced into a thrilling sub/dom relationship. This is true-life erotic romance at its best.

“Looking back, I think I knew I was in trouble the first time I met him. The road he took me down was at once both more liberating than I could have dreamed of, and yet more intense than I could cope with. If the path of love doesn’t always run smooth… then how much more crooked it becomes when mixed with raw desire.”

This is no novel, but the memoir of an intense, exciting and at times unsettling relationship. Alex, for all his charms…

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Structuring your Story part seven; The Lion King and Voglers Journey

BYS

Christopher Vogler is widely recognised as an expert on story structure. His ground breaking work, fully entitled ‘The Writer’s Journey; Mythic Structure for Writers’ has become definitive reading for both screenwriters, students of both film studies and mythic structure, and novelists alike.

The book was born, believe it or not, out of a memo, circulated by Vogler while working at Disney Studios. The memo concerned Joseph Campbells’s work on the hero’s journey within various world mythological cycles, and the ways in which Vogler saw this ‘hero’s journey’ playing out in the structure of on-screen stories. Vogler’s ideas caused quite a stir, and were the basis for the eventual book, which is now translated into eight languages.

Vogler himself has since worked as a consultant for various Hollywood studios, and helped advise on blockbuster movies such as Fight Club, The Lion King and Black Swan. In his latest course ‘the Essence of Storytelling’ Vogler discusses how the use of powerful story structure grounded in myth can turn a film from merely ‘mindless amusement’ to conscious story-telling that triggers powerful emotions in the viewer, resulting in a ‘healthy catharsis’ (first described by Aristotle when discussing the impact of the Greek tragedy plays upon their audience). Powerful stuff.

Although aimed at screenwriters and moviemakers, Voglers work is also enduringly popular with novelists. After all, story is story. The best novels, too, follow a similar structure and result in a ‘healthy catharsis’ on the part of the reader.

So what does this ‘mythic journey’ consist of? Vogler’s structure is similar to the eight point arc we looked at in the previous chapter, though rather more expanded; progressing through twelve stages based upon Campbell’s ‘Hero’s Journey’.

  • Ordinary World – the beginning ‘stasis’. We see our hero/ine in their everyday environment. To take ‘The Lion King’ as an example, we see Simba’s world and his role within the pride and the ‘Circle of Life’.

  • Call to Adventure – the ‘trigger’. The problem or challenge that sets our hero off on his journey. Simba is growing up and must prepare himself to be King.

  • Refusal of the Call – any well-rounded protagonist is likely to have some initial debts about the problem facing them. A further push, either internal or external, is needed to send them on their way. Simba has no wish to grow up and be sensible.

  • Arrival of the Mentor – this is usually where the mentor character steps in – someone who advises and urges on the hero at various stages in their journey – often when they are about to give up. Initially King Mufasa and then wise monkey Rafiki play this role for Simba in the Lion King. The mentor may often at first appear bizarre, annoying, or even an adversary until their true role becomes clear.

  • Crossing the Threshold – the hero is off along their journey and overcomes the initial obstacle. Simba goes off into exile after his father Mufasa is killed by his brother Scar, which Simba thinks he himself has caused.

  • Tests, Allies, Enemies – the conflicts and obstacles that will make up the majority of the ‘second act’. Friends and foes appear, and the hero must overcome various setbacks and challenges.

  • Inmost Cave – our hero is facing the ultimate ordeal and takes some time out to reflect, or wrestle with their inner demons. This may be a dark time for the hero. Often the mentor figure will pop up to help them through.

  • Ordeal – the hero faces his greatest fear, test or adversary. Things may seem hopeless. Simba gets up his courage to face Scar, only for Scar to reveal Simba’s (unwitting) role in his father’s death.

  • Reward – in spite of the horror of the ordeal, the hero has managed to grasp some kind of token (physical or otherwise). In facing Scar and admitting his secret, Simba is finally in possession of his full courage and ready to become King.

  • The Road Back – the final chase or confrontation. Simba vanquishes Scar.

  • Resurrection – the hero, before he finally ‘returns’ or takes on his new role, must undergo a final redemption or transformation. Simba shows mercy to Scar (who then gets conveniently torn apart by hyenas) and takes his rightful place as King.

  • Return – the hero is back, the reward has been achieved, and the ordinary world resumes, but with important changes. The rightful King has been restored and the Circle of Life is once again in balance.

Mini-exercise – With the above in mind, watch – or re-watch – Disney’s most popular film The Lion King.

To help clarify how this fits in with the planning of your novel, Vogler’s 12 steps fit into the basic three act structure as follows;

Set-up

  • Ordinary World

  • Call

  • Refusal

  • Mentor

  • Crossing the First Threshold

Conflict

  • Tests, Allies, Enemies

  • Cave

  • Ordeal

  • Reward

Resolution

  • Road Back

  • Resurrection

  • Return

The 12-steps also expand on our basic eight point arc as follows;

Stasis = Ordinary World

Trigger = Call

Journey = Refusal, Mentor and the First Threshold

Obstacles = Tests, Allies and Enemies

Choice = Inmost Cave

Climax = Ordeal and Reward

Reversal = Road Back and Resurrection

Resolution = Return

Mini-exercise – Take one of your synopses of your own work from the earlier exercise and incorporate Vogler’s 12 steps. You can also add them to your mind-map from the exercise at the end of Chapter One.

Exercise; Going to the Movies

The first part of this exercise should be enjoyable! Get a stack of Hollywood blockbusters, including two films Vogler consulted on (which are less straightforward than The Lion King in their use of the twelve step structure, yet nevertheless incorporate it perfectly) Fight Club and Black Swan. Get watching.

Choose your two favourites and draw up a twelve point story structure for each using Voglers designations. Can you identify the different stages in your chosen films?

Now apply Vogler’s twelve steps to one of the novels you examined in the first exercise from the Introduction. Then apply it to a work of your own.

Extract from ‘Building your Story’.

First Day Fiction; Free Exclusive Extract of ‘The Rake of Glendir’

rake

As today marks the UK and Australian release of ‘The Rake of Glendir’ my third historical novella for Mills and Boon, it made sense that this months free fiction should be an extract. In keeping with the erotica theme I’ve had going on the past few months, here’s a steamy scene between the rakish Lord Jasper and the mysterious newcomer Amelia….

 

Jasper squeezed her hand, his eyes dark. ‘Your mother’s ancestors were Highlanders, as were mine,’ he told her, ‘and that wildness is in our blood. No matter how much you try to subdue it, it will out. You need a man that can match what is in you, not try to tame it.’

Amelia’s heart raced at his words, the heady rush of desire he had awakened in her last night flooding through her again. Barely knowing what she was doing, only that it felt completely natural, she said through dry lips, ‘Are you that man, my lord?’

She held her breath as Jasper looked at her as if he would drink her in, as if he could see to the very core of her. How could a man with such an air of being unfathomable about him make her feel as if she were fully exposed to him, from her secret longings to her deepest fears? When he let go of her hand she felt almost bereft then saw he had only let go so that he could stand and walk around the table towards her. He pulled her to her feet and regarded her silently for a minute, close enough that she could feel his warm breath on her hair. Amelia thought she would die from anticipation if he didn’t kiss her again, but instead he said, his voice low and deep, ‘Would you want me to be, my lady?’

It was a challenge, she thought. In spite of her fear, her desire was stronger, her heart leaping in her chest at the thought of exploring the passion she had found in this man’s arms. It might, after all, be her only chance. ‘Yes,’ she replied, meeting his eyes. His gaze settled on her lips, and she was never sure whether it was him or herself that closed the gap first, but the next thing she knew they were kissing fiercely. This time there was no hesitation in her. His words had moved her, stirred in her a longing she didn’t fully understand but that she needed to fulfil.

Jasper turned so that he leaned against the edge of the table, pulling her onto him so that she was all but astride his lap, her skirts awry. When his hands tugged at the ribbons at the front of her dress and pushed down the material she made no move to stop him but instead moaned as her breasts sprang free into his hands. He palmed her nipples, his rough hands feeling as sensuous on her skin as she had known they would. He might be a lord but he had Highlander’s hands, she thought, smuggler’s hands. Not the smooth, practised hands of a rake as Sally had described him, but the hands of a man whose wildness was far nearer to the surface than her own.

Jasper buried his face in her breasts, licking and sucking until she felt she would scream with delight. The secret place between her thighs was on fire, and she pushed against him shamelessly to relieve the ache, feeling how hard he was against her, evidence of his own desire. He reached under her shift and stroked her thighs, then the soft curls of hair between her legs. Then his hand found the hard little nub at her core that responded to his touch with a stab of pleasure.

Is this wild enough for you?’ he asked, his voice low and throbbing. Amelia nodded, her breath catching in her throat as she spoke.

I… have never done such a thing.’

He looked amused. ‘I suppose my dinner table is not the usual place of seduction for me, either. Should we retire to my rooms?’

The Paranormal Investigations Agency series

With ‘The Lady is a Vamp’ and ‘Vamp About Town’ being published later this year with Xcite books and a third being planned, it was obvious to both myself and the lovely people at Xcite that there was a scope for a longer running series…and so the ‘Paranormal Investigations Agency’ was born. In ‘The Lady is a Vamp’ Ruby and Nick meet while he’s still a detective for the NYPD, but that’s changed by the end of the story. ‘Vamp About Town’ chronicles their first case with Nick as a PI and Ruby using her vampire powers to help out. Of course, the case turns personal…with far-reaching implications for the next book, ‘Vamp Noir’.

So what’s in the pipeline for the rest of the series? Well, in ‘Vamp About Town’ I introduce a new couple, Lina and Bane, who definitely deserve a story or two of their own, and I have a feeling a certain femme fatale nemesis of Ruby’s might also warrant some more story-time.

I’m really excited to see where I can take this series, and I’m also loving the cover art, sent to me today.

The Lady is a Vamp (1)                    Vamp about town