"And above all watch with glittering eyes the world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." - Roald Dahl

30 January 2014

Writing a Novel while Working Full Time

© Mehmet Uluc Ceylani, Dreamstime
I’m sure it’s true for many writers out there, like myself, who wish for nothing more than to be able to write full time. We fantasise about waking up, grabbing a cup of coffee and marching off to our desks / offices / family rooms, etc. and pounding away at the keyboard until we realise that the sun has already set and dinner still needs to be prepared – but satisfied that we managed to have a productive writing day. This would be the ideal. But the reality for the majority of us is that we have bills to pay and we therefore need to get up and work at our day jobs for at least eight hours a day, five days a week so that we receive a steady, reliable income and don’t end up homeless.
I’ve read so many articles about people seeking advice on how to complete a novel while maintaining a full time job. I read them because about two years ago I was wondering exactly the same thing. And while I am no expert on the topic, I have managed to achieve just this: completing a full length novel while working a corporate day job and I managed to do this in less than a year. I know that many people can probably write two or more novels in the same timeframe, but this was still a massive achievement for me.

So not being an expert, I won’t be giving you any tips or tricks. What I will do, though, is tell you how I managed to do it.

·     First and foremost, I made the decision that I would start and finish this novel, no matter what. I wasn’t going to do it for anyone but myself and I was determined not to let myself down. I think this, above all, was my driving force.

·     I set a daily target of 1000 words. Sometimes I managed it; sometimes I lagged way behind. Over the weekends I tried to catch up if I had slacked. I also participated in Nanowrimo and boosted my wordcount in that way as well.

·     I told my husband, sisters and parents all about my plans to write the novel. Each day my husband would ask whether I had reached my target or not. If not, he always wanted to know why I hadn’t managed it, which allowed for introspection.

·     Each time I spoke to a family member, they would enquire about the novel’s progress. This made me accountable to others and it was good pressure I placed on myself.

·     I enjoyed the story I was writing immensely. Some days, not every day, I found myself watching the clock to at work. I couldn’t wait to get to my laptop to continue with the story.

·     I tried to be a plotter and plotted quite a bit of the story – almost each chapter actually. And in every chapter I ended up ‘pantsing.’ This was exciting because even I didn’t know how it was going to end, fuelling me to want to write more.

And lo and behold, before I knew it, I had completed an 82 000 word novel that I was damned proud of, while working a full time job.
In the end I realised that all those years I wasted making excuses for not having the time to write was just that – a waste. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I think my reason for making those initial excuses was that I wasn’t ready yet. Writing a novel (or anything for that matter) that other people will be reading and critiquing is an extremely scary thing. But if it’s what you really want, you shouldn’t let anything stand in your way.

So these are my closing words to you. Just go for it. Stop saying there isn’t enough time, because you’ll find / make the time if writing is really important to you. PVR the movies / series you want to watch and free up those evenings. Sit up late if you’re a night person or get up early if you’re a morning person. Do whatever it is that you need to do to get that novel written. Just go for it.
(Also, see my guest blog on Time Management for a related blog)

Good luck! (And don’t get too bogged down by the social media) J


27 January 2014

STORM is open for pre-orders to South African residents!

STORM Volumes I & II are now available to pre-order (to South African residents only) at a discounted price until 30 April 2014 only.
Watch my Facebook author page and Twitter handle for more info about the various stories to be included.

If you're interested, drop me a line here, or on FB and I'll be in touch!

23 January 2014

It is coming! STORM

Get ready everyone! The Pretoria Writers Group (of which I am a proud member) will be launching a two-part anthology of short stories called STORM during June 2014.
My contribution, The Icarus Curse, will be included in Volume I.
Leading up to the release, please visit back here to my blog, my Facebook author page or my Twitter profile, or all of the above to stay updated.
I'm super excited! Join me on this journey!

16 January 2014

Author Spotlight : Anya Allyn - Author of the Dollhouse Series

BOOK REVIEW: DOLLHOUSE - Anya Allyn (Dollhouse Series, Book #1)
 I’d like to start off by saying something like, “If you like this book or this movie, then you’ll really enjoy Dollhouse by Anya Allyn.” I’d like to – but I can’t. Not because it’s not as good as any book or movie out there, but simply because it’s not easily comparable.

Dollhouse by Anya Allyn, for me, is a different breed of book. It’s dark. It’s gothic. There are certainly elements of horror in there. It’s a mish-mash that works really well, I think.

While searching in the young adult section on my Kindle app, I stumbled across this little gem by accident. Well, not by accident really. I was in that particular section and the book cover caught my attention. Yes, yes, I know. Never judge a book by its cover. All that glitters is not gold. And I have been caught out on numerous occasions, but I have to say that this time, it worked out pretty well.

If dark, supernatural YA novels are what you’re into, then Dollhouse is certainly for you. In an Australian town, girls have gone missing over the years within the surrounding mountains, never to be found again. When Aisha Dumaj goes missing in this very area, her boyfriend Ethan and friends, Cassie and Lacey, go looking for her. What they find is nothing short of a horror story.

I loved the premise of this book and was kept engaged throughout. I found it to be full of suspense, making me eager to read more. I finished the book in about a night-and-a-half, and when I did, I was somewhat disappointed that it ended as a cliff hanger, but excited that there was more to come. The characters and their dialogue were typical yet believable and the romantic undercurrents and subtle love triangle were dealt with skilfully.

In Dollhouse, Cassie, Ethan, Lacey and Aisha’s strengths are tested, their friendships are tried and in this new world of extremely weird characters where they find themselves trapped, they have to fight against delirium, starvation, clowns, dolls and death.

Allyn’s writing is beautiful and descriptive and I felt her words drawing me into this surreal and sometimes terrifying world that she has created on every page.

At times the storyline felt confusing, but I think that this illustrated how the characters felt in the situations they found themselves in. I can honestly say that there were moments in this book where I was truly scared. And I loved it!

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Dollhouse. I am so happy to have stumbled upon this author and I am looking forward to reading Paper Dolls, Book #2 soon.

1. I love the premise of this book. Where did you get your idea for the Dollhouse series?
 Thank you :). I had the first threads of an idea when I went away to the place that the book is set in - Barrington Tops (in Australia). The eerie beauty of places there such as Ladies Well had me thinking ghostly thoughts. Weirdly, even a photo of me there came out ghostly….

2. Do you enjoy writing in this genre?
Yes, definitely! It's not something I've tackled before. I've always been more into sci fi. I didn't realise I was writing horror until the end of the book, because it doesn't have any gore in it. Then I realised my book had all the hallmarks of the Gothic genre. So the Dollhouse series is Gothic horror -definitely not one of the popular genres to choose to write in!

3. You’re fast! These books are coming out at lightning speed. Did you write continuously or did you take a break in between writing
each book?

I'd like to think I'm fast, but I'm glacially-slow compared to others I know who are writing and putting out books within a month! It takes me around four months to a complete draft and then more weeks for editing. I don't take breaks because I'm unable to do so - even if I'm
not writing, some story or other is busily writing itself in my head!

4. How much do you generally write in a day?
Anywhere from 400 to 4000 words. It's rare that I write nothing at all.

5. Clowns are not my favourite things in the world, so there were a few scenes which terrified me. Were you able to sleep at night while writing these books?
Clowns used to terrify me too! And dolls… And being trapped underground… I wrote about all the things that used to scare me silly when I was a kid. I used to have to put the dolls in a wardrobe at night so they couldn't 'watch me sleep'. I think, with this book, I must have been
exorcising my childhood demons. The writing of it did at some points get under my skin - especially those late-night writing sessions. I wondered if I was making this book too damned scary and if I should lighten it up (I didn't).

6. When can we expect book four?
Book 4 is around half the way there - more if you go by word length, but editing can take longer than the writing, so I'll say half! I'm not sure when I'll have it finished but it will take me another couple of months at the very least.

7. What are your writing plans once this series is complete?
I'm not sure which way I'll head after this. I absolutely do want to write the prequel to Dollhouse, which will be set in the 14th century  - it keeps writing itself in my head as I'm writing Book 4 (which is very distracting!). I also have the idea for a Gothic romance/thriller - which would be fun to write. And then I have a YA dystopian that I've already written and I love the story, so I might release that one. I'm just not sure which way I want to go yet!

8. Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I'm both, but good at neither. Writing four books in a series has told me a lot about how my mind works - my mind is a scary, jumbled place lol!  There are lots of crisscrossing story lines running from Dollhouse 1 to the end of Dollhouse 4 ( some pantsed and some plotted), but they're strangely all wrapping up neatly, so there may be some method underneath the madness yet….
9. You’re a busy mom. How do you manage to write and be mother to four boys?

The two eldest are grown and big enough to look after themselves! The two youngest are eleven and seven - I write while they are at school. Last year, I homeschooled the youngest for the last months of the year, and I wrote every night from 9pm until 1am. It's not easy, but the
great thing is that it's a job you don't need to leave home to do, which leaves more time for your family.

Carmen’s TOP TEN: (with a nod to Amanda Patterson's 17 Questions)
1. If you could choose to be any character in a book, who would you be and why?
Hermione Granger from Harry Potter. Boarding school where there is magic and adventure every day would be extremely cool!

2. Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?
Charlotte's Web. I read it when I was very young and it became a favourite that I read many times.

3. What can’t you leave home without?
It can't be my phone, shoes or wallet, because I often go off walking without those! I'd have to say, I can't leave home without a good reason, because it cuts into my valuable writing time!

4. What book that you’ve written is your favourite?
The one I'm currently writing always seems to be my favourite!

5. Other than your own books, what are your top 3 books?
Oh, my own aren't amongst my top books - not even close! I'd say 1984, Pride and Prejudice and Lord of the Rings.
6. What is your favourite place in the world?

The ocean, wherever in the world it is.

7. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Be bold. Write what is in the deepest part of you and forget what anyone else is writing or doing.

8. What is your most treasured possession?
A key ring belonging to my mother, who is no longer with us. I have pieces of her jewellery, but the key ring was something she used almost every day, and it reminds me of her and of home.

9. What do you do in your spare time?
Bushwalking and reading. Am also an avid movie-watcher.

10. Describe your perfect day.
With family, outside in spring weather, with some yummy food.

*This book review and interview was done with Anya Allyn in July 2013 and was first blogged on Carmen Botman's Weebly site*

The Dollhouse Series: Dollhouse, Paper Dolls, Marionette and Music Box are all available as Kindle e-books.

Find Anya Allyn at:
Website: www.anyaallyn.com
Twitter: Anya_Allyn
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorAnyaAllyn

9 January 2014

Writing Quotes

Writing Quotes

A very happy 2014 to you all and welcome to my new home for blogging!
I thought I’d start off the year with something inspirational to get the writing juices flowing and decided to share a few of my favourite writing quotes with you.

I hope you find at least one quote that stands out, affirming that being a writer is exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life. This very first quote is my absolute favourite.
“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the world around you, because the greatest   secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
 - Roald Dahl
“Fill you paper with the breathings of your heart.” – William Wordsworth
“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
– George Orwell
"A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.” – Roald Dahl

“I never exactly made a book. It’s rather like taking dictation. I was given things to say.”– C.S. Lewis

“I write for the same reason I breathe...because if I didn’t, I would die.”
– Isaac Asimov

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”– Cyril Connolly

“A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.” – Eugene Ionesco

“A book worth reading only in childhood is not worth reading even then.”
– C.S. Lewis

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” – Anton Chekov

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”– Stephen King

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
– Maya Angelou

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”– W. Somerset Maughan

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”– Toni Morrison

And finally...
“Don’t forget – no one else sees the world the way you do, so no one can tell the stories that you have to tell.” – Charles de Lint

Hope you’ve been inspired. Happy writing!