Using your emotions to write

*ebook promotion reminder!* My ebook When Colour Became Grey will be available FOR FREE to download from Thursday 26th November 8am UK time // 9am CET until Saturday 28th November 7.59am UK time // 8.59am CET. Get ready to download in just a few days! 🙂

Whatever you’re feeling, you can use your emotions to write and let yourself be inspired by them. Depending on what genre you write, there will be emotions communicated in your writing. If your book is a horror story, the emotions may be mostly sinister, but there are still a multitude of emotions you can explore within that dark setting.

Sometimes writing is used to escape your current life situation. But what if your feelings are just too present? What if you cannot dissociate from them? As they say, if you cannot beat them, join them. In that sense, if you are having trouble connecting to your book and characters, then focus on parts of the book that are similar emotionally to your current state of mind.

Right now, I’m in lockdown, it’s cold and dark outside. I’m feeling depressed, lonely, annoyed, restless, angry. So when I write I will focus on parts of the book that are centered around betrayal, heartbreak, loneliness and despair. It will be harder for me to describe a summer wedding right now, unless I can completely disconnect from my current surrounding. And while I often can disconnect, sometimes the things in my personal life are just too present. But this doesn’t mean you cannot utilize what you feel. That way you’re not limited to writing only when you’re in a particular state of mind that fits the plot line.

What are you currently feeling? How is your writing going this winter season?

[Disclaimer: I’m working on the sequel of When Colour Became Grey, but any scenes described in this blog are always just examples. There are no spoilers in my description above. 😉 ]

Lockdown Repeat – let’s get creative

*ebook promotion announcement!* My ebook When Colour Became Grey will be available FOR FREE to download from Thursday 26th November 8am UK time // 9am CET until Saturday 28th November 7.59am UK time // 8.59am CET. Tell your friends, mark your calendars and get ready to download! 🙂

We’re now in a second lockdown, and I’m remembering my blog post about the first lockdown and my creative goals. This lockdown isn’t as strict as the first one, and not as long (for now) as the first one, but this time it’s a different season. It’s cold and often rainy outside, so the desire to go outside is certainly not as strong as during the first lockdown. So I would like to try to be more creative this time around. After all, might as well use this time to do something productive (if I can…).

As you can see from the first paragraph, I’m planning an ebook promotion. This will take up a fair bit of time planning and organizing over the next few weeks. I hope to still be able to work on the sequel to When Colour Became Grey in between work and the ebook promotion. In any case, we’re approaching Christmas and this time of the year I feel more creative. You’re indoors, with a cup of tea or coco, curled up on the sofa, a candle or two shimmering on the table. Add to that a bit of calm background music and you’re golden. It doesn’t get much cozier than that! And winter is just beginning, the darkness and long rainy days will continue until March usually so I hope to advance in the sequel even after the second lockdown is lifted.

There is also something about it being cold and wet outside, that creates this atmosphere of mystery and wonder. You can look outside and imagine the darkness weighing on your character as he/she hurries out of danger and into the safety of a tavern. Maybe there’s a sword fight in the rain, or a magic ritual performed that goes wrong…

What are you planning during this lockdown? Do you also have a creative goal?

How many people should read your book before publication?

*My dear readers, I’m very sorry I didn’t post last week. I was away and didn’t manage to write and schedule a post to publish automatically on Sunday beforehand. I’m very sorry about this!*

This is a question I’ve asked myself quite a bit before publishing. I read somewhere that it’s a good idea to send your book out to a group of “test readers” that represent your target audience and see what they think of your book. Ideally you should also be building an audience ahead of the launch and pick out your “test readers” from that audience.

When I first looked into publishing When Colour Became Grey I didn’t have a blog. I had written blogs before but they had nothing to do with writing. And because I had already started working with a professional editor, I didn’t really see how I could get a group of “test readers” to review my book on time before the editor finalized his review. And to be honest I was also very impatient and wanted to publish the book sooner rather than later.

In hindsight I think it could have been beneficial to have early feedback on the book, but I’m still unsure at what stage it would make most sense to gather reader feedback. It’s something I have in the back of my mind for the sequel, but I’m not yet sure how I want to incorporate that into the publishing process. And I have also a lot of questions still to figure out, for example how big the test group should be, which draft version the test readers should get to read, and how to pick the group of test readers.

I have an idea of my target audience, but those that have read When Colour Became Grey have identified a much wider target audience. And how to incorporate early reader feedback also touches on a more philosophical question on how you approach your work; are you writing something and then searching for the audience, or do you get an audience first and then deliver what the audience wants. There is no right or wrong answer, it’s a question of how you see your books.

Was it easier or harder to write during lockdown?

Currently, I’m based in the UK. And we were under lockdown roughly between March and June. Some people have taken that opportunity to write books or music, or even produce a movie.

For me lockdown was not as productive creatively as I would have liked it to be. I was working full-time but I didn’t have to commute and with everything closed, I had a lot more time on my hands. However, especially in the beginning of lockdown it was hard for me to motivate myself to write. Once I was done working, I needed to get some fresh air and movement. Everyone was anxious and I found myself unable to concentrate on writing. I needed more human interaction, not less. Writing is very isolating, because I can’t really write when I’m around people. For me to write well I need to be in a room by myself, with music drowning out any other noise, and no one interrupting me. So this was incompatible with the need for social interactions.

Therefore, unfortunately, I didn’t take advantage of lockdown and write more. I’m very envious of those that used that time to be productive. But I’m also not too hard on myself for not having written more. It was an exceptionally stressful time and while I could have forced myself to stare at a screen and try to come up with words, I knew I would have trouble concentrating and immersing myself into my fantasy worlds. I would have been even more frustrated with myself for not being able to write pages upon pages.

So I took it easy and focused on writing in this blog regularly, write down any new ideas I had, and every now and again work on the sequel to When Colour Became Grey. It’s important to not be too hard on yourself and to allow yourself to also focus on other things. Forcing myself to write can sometimes trigger new ideas, but more often than not it has the opposite effect.

I took advantage of lockdown in other ways by seeing my family for a prolonged time [I was still following guidelines!], by connecting with people through social media, home-gyming and focusing on yoga and mental well-being.
How was lockdown for you? Have you been able to write or pursue your art?

How much is your book based on your own life?

I sometimes get asked if certain characters are a reflection of people around me, or if this or that scene is a direct reflection of my life due to some apparent similarities.

While I do get inspiration from my life, people around me, everyday situations, entertainment (movies, etc.), I don’t transpose “real” things directly into my books. I mostly get inspired by things you cannot really grasp, like a feeling, a look on someone’s face, a dynamic between two people. These are often also not things I’ve lived myself, but rather something I’ve observed.

If you look at the feeling of love as an example, there are different variations of it and different degrees of intensity, so you can explore it in different forms in a fictional setting. Some feelings are also nowadays very neglected such as loyalty, that can be interesting to investigate. If you’re finding it hard to get inspired by your own life, I’ve found that travelling and exploring other cultures can greatly inspire you. Obviously this is not really possible at the moment, but you can try things outside of your normal realm such as watch a movie that is absolutely not your genre, try out different cuisines, learn about a subject you’ve never thought of before.

You can also take something that happened in a real life, and flip it completely around into something creatively more interesting. For example you break up with your partner because he/she cheated. That’s (unfortunately) quite common in real life. But what if you take this and transpose it into a fictional setting; your two characters break up, but instead of being able to go their separate ways, they’re suddenly forced to work together because of… well whatever, you can make it up. And then you observe the character dynamics. Will they be able to put the cheating aside to work together? Are they going to talk about it or are they just going to pretend it didn’t happen and move on? Throw in an old boyfriend or girlfriend in some capacity or another, and see how that changes the dynamic.

Most of my inspiration is not directly linked to my personal life. I like to escape into my fantasy worlds and I don’t need too many reminders of my own life in there. So if there are similarities to my real life, these are purely coincidental. 🙂

What is the easiest part of the writing process?

Last week I explained the hardest part of the writing process for me, I thought this week I’d delve into what I found was the easiest.

Instinctively, I would say the easiest part was the character creation. I had a very clear image of the main characters and their motivation, partly because I base them on people I know, partly because whenever I experienced writer’s block I would spend time with my characters. This would often trigger ideas for the plot line. This also meant that when I then came up with ideas for the plot line, I knew if it would fit with the personalities of my characters, or if the plot line would need to be tweaked to make it work, or if my characters needed to be “strong-armed” into reacting the way I needed them to.

Character development along the plot line was a bit harder, but because I knew my characters pretty well, I knew what kind of catalysts I would need to make them evolve along the story. By extension, I also didn’t have too much trouble finding character names. Only the main character changed names several times.

Another easy part which I had alluded to in my previous post, was the editing process. It took a long time, but once you’ve written the story all the way through, you know where you want to go and you can more easily cut scenes that are not really advancing the plot. I’m basing this on working with an editor. He made this part infinitely easier. When he made suggestions, I knew if I liked his suggestions, or if I disagreed with them. This gives you perspective and makes it easier to trim your story and perfect the pacing.

In writing the sequel, I found it easier to start writing the beginning because I already have a base I can use. I would say I’ve written the first quarter easily, but then it slowed down. I have the ending figured out (more or less) and parts of the middle, but it’s connecting the parts and making it all flow that seems to be trickier. What do you find easy when writing? What is harder?

What is the hardest part in the writing process?

Every part of the the writing process has different challenges. Some come to me more naturally than others. Editing for example takes me a long time, but comes to me more easily than writing a first draft.

For me, the hardest part is coming up with the plot line, and I don’t mean just the initial idea, but the complete description/action in the book. If I take the example of When Colour Became Grey then the initial idea is described in the blurb. That’s the overall direction of travel, but what happens on those 300 pages needs to be much more precise and make sense. You can’t make something happen that wouldn’t fit the character’s personality or come up with “easy solutions” or over-dramatization (I’m thinking here of a particular action movie where the main character almost dies 7 times but somehow is always saved in the last second. After the third time I couldn’t take it seriously anymore). As the author you can write exactly what you want, but readers need to accept where you’re taking them and it needs to be somewhat plausible.

To me writing is like creating an intricate tapestry. You start off with just the overall idea and you add in layers of color, pattern, use different material to give the story a different feel as you move on. The reader only sees a small portion of the threads, as if they’re going over the tapestry with a magnifying glass. But as they read on, more and more of the tapestry is revealed until they see the whole piece, and ideally you write in a way that the reader understands “insiders” from earlier in the story that they only discover once they’ve finished the story.

Initially when writing a detailed plot line, I write what the story is about looking at it solely from the main character’s perspective. Then I think about the role of the secondary characters and how they interact with the plot line of the main character (so I’m still looking at it with a view on how it will influence the main character only); are they always helping the plot advance and how do they advance the plot line, or do they interfere and force the plot line of the main character to change? After this, I question whether it makes sense for the secondary characters to act the way I’ve described it; does it fit with their personality?

I leave room for spontaneity and for the story to take control over me; just like I’ve written in my post on how to bring characters to life I let my imagination take over and take me where it wants to go. It often leads to great ideas and scenes.