Writers - Use Your Nose!

The human brain is a truly staggering piece of anatomy/machinery. There are so many things it does that we don't pay attention to, things that become second nature. Smell is one of those things; it's a sense that we use without thinking. We come across different smells every day, some pleasant, some not and unconsciously our brains register these smells and attach information to them.

As a writer I'm learning that smell is essential. Recently I happened to get some new perfume, one that I used to wear when I was a teenager. As soon as I sprayed it memories flooded back and I was transported 17 years into the past. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach, I closed my eyes and breathed in the scent. Emotions cursed through me and as I thought about my novel I was inspired to write about a particular character. It was this that made me realise how important smell is for writers.

To give you another example when I give my boys Ricicles for breakfast in a morning I think of my Nan. When I was a little girl we stayed with her at Christmas time and would have Ricicles for breakfast every day. She had this huge dog called Gambit who would stay by my side the whole time I was there. I used to play with him out in the garden while I picked apples from the huge apple tree. There would be a big Christmas tree in the corner of the lounge that had been decorated by me and my sisters. And the best bit - my Nan's smile that made her eyes sparkle; even behind her thick bifocal glasses. All this from the smell of Ricicles.

Whenever I'm reading a book and come across a great passage of writing that invokes real emotions I  wonder how the writer did it. I couldn't figure out how they had managed to get such feeling into their words but now I realise that that age-old advice "Write what you know" is kind of true. If you use your own experiences as inspiration it will make your writing better. From the whiff of a particular perfume I can make my villain more evil and the smell of freshly cut grass inspires me to write about a happy family.

My advice to all writers is "Use your nose". That magic connection between smells and memories is indispensable and should be utilised at every opportunity.

Do you have a favourite scent that triggers nice memories?
Have you been surprised by an influx of memories from a smell?

Writing a Novel? Keep at It.

When I started writing my first novel I’ll admit that I thought it was going to be easy. Sat in front of a computer typing out words that pop into my head - what’s hard about that? 

I’d been collating ideas for months and had them arranged into a storyline (of sorts). I took a deep breath and decided to get to the interesting part; creating my world. I wrote every day for about a month and completed my novel. Amazed that I’d managed it I was very proud of myself. Experts advise taking a break at this stage and that's just what I did. Time flew by because I was excited to start the next stage of my writing journey. If only I’d been prepared…

I read through my novel and it made me question whether I was cut out to be a writer. I couldn’t believe the garbage that had come out of my head and landed on the page. Devastated is not the word. I remembered being proud of myself and laughed - what made me think I could do this? The same experts that said "take a break" now said rewrite. I tried that and learned that not only was the writing bad but the story was too. In the end that novel got filed away on the computer never to be seen by human eyes again. But then came a problem; I wanted to write.

After spending a month at the computer creating characters and a world for them to inhabit I wanted to continue with that. I’d abandoned my story and needed a new one, but how? One evening when the kids were driving me crazy with their constant bickering I got hit with inspiration. The storyline was drip-fed to me for days on end and had become the only thing occupying my mind. Characters stalked my night and kept me from sleeping. The world came alive in my head and I sat in front of the computer again.

This time instead of just writing every day I wrote and rewrote and rewrote again. Each paragraph took longer to write because I kept going back to edit my work. In a month I’d managed to write a few pages, editing as I went wasn't working. It was hard to stop but after 4 months (and a lot of restraint) my second novel was finished. I didn’t feel like I’d accomplished anything and I wasn't proud but I did take another break.

It was harder to take a break the second time because I anticipated my rubbish writing. For this reason my break was shorter and within a couple of weeks I'd started the rewrite. That was almost two years ago. 

My rewrites haven’t gone as well as I expected and I’ve started this process many times. I’ve still not managed to finish. Here’s the thing though, I keep coming back. I’ve done lots of rewrites, each time stopping in the middle. For about a week. Then I come back, start again and the process repeats. One of the most common pieces of advice anyone offers to new writers is to write every day. Keep coming back, write something even if you think it’s trash - now that I can do!

One thing has remained the same throughout my journey; the story. It has evolved but is essentially the same and as I’ve learned new tricks and techniques to keep myself at the computer it remains the story I want to write. I’m not going to rush myself, there’s no time limit. I will write, rewrite and edit until my fingers are worn to the bone because I want this story to be the best it can be. When it’s ready I’ll get friends and peers to read and critique and I will release this book. 

One day I'll be able to call myself an author but until then I will keep coming back. Any problems I encounter and overcome will be tagged as mini achievements after all writing just one sentence is progress. Whatever I can do to take a step closer to my goal is a step in the right direction. Writing is in my soul and one day, somewhere on the virtual shelves at Amazon, there’ll be a book written by me, Morgan Prince.

What techniques do you use to keep yourself coming back?

Do you have any tips for keeping me going through that rewrite?

The Pen. Is It Still The Tool For Writers?

On my writing journey I've learned lots of things about myself, about how to write and about how others do things. I know that I struggle to write if there's anything important going on in my life, I just can't move past the excitement, trepidation or worry. I've learned that there's lots of different ways to write a book and no one agrees on the 'right' way. And I've learned that everyone has their own way of creating and putting a novel together.

The pen is mightier...

When presented with the word 'Writer' my mind conjures up images of a man with black hair and dark-rimmed glasses sitting at his desk, pen in hand staring thoughtfully ahead. Pen in hand? I wonder if this is just a generation thing or something that all writers think they should do? When I first started trying to write a book I had my laptop for the actual writing but most of my notes were handwritten in notebooks or on post-its. Other writers blog about how they carry a pen and notebook around with them just in case they get hit with inspiration while they're out.

iPad - A useful note taker.

Over the last few years I've learned that handwritten notes are no good for me. Even if I do write things down I never go back and read them. I have numerous half-filled notebooks around the house with scrawls of ideas and research but not once have I read through them. I love the idea of writing with a pen, being inspired by my own words and seeing my handwriting in front of me. I feel like that's what real writers do but I can't work that way. If I take handwritten notes while researching the information won't go in.

I have tried to use a pen and paper to hash out ideas and always manage to get to a point where I give up. This week I've been learning a lot about outlining ideas, plotting and character creation and most of my notes have been on the computer. I've read websites and had a notes page open ready for ideas to strike. The weird thing is that I've made more progress this week then ever before. 

My novel was at a standstill. Although I've finished the first draft I still haven't managed to finish a second and it's been months! In the middle of last week I decided to stop moping and get on with organising the plot lines and making sure it all works. I stumbled upon a website (http://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com) that helped me outline my novel and I'm currently looking at my characters and making sure they all fill a vital role in the story. The difference this week is that all of my work has been on the computer as opposed to some of it (the creation) on the computer and the rest of it as handwritten notes. In four working days I've managed to make loads of progress and my story has already changed drastically.

The way forward, at least for me.

Working exclusively on the computer means that all my notes are in one place and I'm not rushing around the house searching for that yellow notebook with characters in it. It's what works for me. Being able to tab through windows instead of searching through pages makes such a difference. If I'm out I have my phone which syncs with my Mac so that all my notes are accessible. Technology has come a long way since I was at school and that makes it so much easier to keep track of all your scribblings. 

Having done both I know that this is my preference. I wonder if younger generations of writers will prefer computers over handwritten notes?

How many notebooks do you own? If you hand write your notes how often do you read through them?

Apple's WWDC 2014 - OS X Yosemite

Apple is one of those companies that don't like to stay still. They continue to come up with new sparkly ideas that wow us and this year's WWDC was no different. Yesterday I talked a little bit about iOS 8 and the exciting new features coming our way in Autumn but now I want to talk about OS X Yosemite.

OS X Yosemite for Mac

Yep, Yosemite is the name of OS X 10.10 and this is because they have moved from naming their operating system after large cats. Now they're naming it after beautiful places in California and so we have Yosemite.

For a long time now I've been an Apple convert and love all their devices. Many years ago I had an android phone and used to complain about its capabilities constantly but now I have no qualms about my phone. I have an iPhone. I work on an iMac and occasionally use a Macbook Air. These machines are beautiful things but they also make the user experience so much more pleasant than using Windows. This is why I always look forward to Apple conferences and announcements, because I know something amazing is coming.

Apple's WWDC 2014

This week is Apple's 25th Worldwide Developers Conference and yesterday they held their keynote presentation. I sat at home next to the hubby quite excited about the prospects of new 'stuff' and I was NOT disappointed. Apple told us about lots of new things coming our way soon including iOS 8, OS X 10.10 and many other things.

You may think that a 'Developers Conference' would be all about what the developers should expect in the coming months and it is, for the most part. However, this time Apple gave us lots of information about what is new for the end user. Very exciting if you're an Apple girl like me!

I would love to list everything that Apple talked about but I think that would be a long rambling post and you'd get lost in the midst of it all. Instead what I'll do is post information today about iOS 8 features and tomorrow I'll get into the OS X stuff. There was so much that even Apple, in their two hour presentation, couldn't talk about every feature and so I've just picked a few of the best, in my opinion.