Immersing the Reader

Two things that really make a piece of writing stand out is how well it engages the audience and/or how much the creator has invested in it emotionally. One way to do this to use the senses, the other is to be unflinchingly honest. Either way latches onto our emotions and has us irrevocably attached to what has been produced.

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This is what you want, a reader oblivious to everything but the page in front of him.

Seeing as I am a writer I’ll use my own words and the senses as my first example. The girl sat under the tree. Freaking boring sentence isn’t it? Almost pained me to write it. The girl sat under the willow tree, the dirt and dead leaves sticking to her legs. Add in the sense of touch and it gets a bit better. Suddenly you can picture underneath the tree and what sort it is much more clearly.

Add another sentence. The girl sat under the willow tree, the dirt and dead leaves sticking to her legs. The willow’s fronds tickled as the breeze gently played with them causing a peel of laughter. Now you know she’s happy, even though it hasn’t been stated as such, simply shown through the use of touch and sound.

One more sentence.  The girl sat under the willow tree, the dirt and dead leaves sticking to her legs. The willow’s fronds tickled as the breeze gently played with them causing a peel of laughter. Bright sunshine and warmth filtered through the branches as if reacting to her presence. Now we know it’s day time and the weather is warm and so is this girl.

The above scene is pretty generic and by no means brilliant, but what it does do is use the senses to draw you in and make you wonder about her. That first sentence was as boring as watching grass grow and in no way engaged the reader. The audience doesn’t want to be told how to react to something, they want to be made to feel and the quickest way to do that is to immerse them into your writing, regardless of what type it is.

My second example is Constance Hall, a blogger from Fremantle, Western Australia. Constance is a big deal with over a million followers and has had a recent book published, Like a Queen. She writes that the reason for her success is because she loves her audience and I have to say that I agree 100%. Whether you are reading her blog posts or her book you can feel her honesty and that she cares. What she is writing is exactly what she means, no mucking around. It is a brilliant example of emotional investment on behalf of the creator.

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You can pick her writing apart if you care to, I don’t. This is simply because it would ruin the value of what Constance has produced. She writes from the heart, everything laid bare for her audience because she cares that much for them and they in turn care for her. Read her book, you’ll feel like you’re sitting down with her having a few wines (or ciders in my case) and chatting about life. If that isn’t immersion I don’t know what is.

So how to achieve that in your own writing? Care and don’t be afraid to show it. Whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction, if you don’t particularly care about the writing or something is holding you back from full on committing, the reader will feel it and consequently not care either. A truly great piece of writing stays with us forever and that is because it has pulled on our emotions. Don’t let fear hold you back. As that saying goes, shoot for the moon and if you miss at least you’ll land among the stars.

Happy creating everyone!

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Creative Discovery

Today (being Sunday) for the first time ever I went to a workshop for writing. This is the workshop I didn’t attend earlier in the year because of sick children and generally being overwhelmed at the time. I wasn’t really sure what to expect except for it to focus on writing somehow. So off I went, filled with enthusiasm and armed with pens and an A4 notebook as Louise, the lady running the workshop, requested. (Important note: I’m not going into detail about the workshop if you want to know more go to Louise’s website at this link)

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What a treat was waiting for me. For starters, the workshop went for 3 hours and for me this was a decent block of time to go and do something for myself. It’s neither too long nor too short, running that fine line between guilt for leaving my children and the joy of going off and focusing on something just for me.

Secondly it reintroduced me to writing prompts. This was something half remembered from high school where you were assigned a picture and had to write about it. Well there are different kinds of writing prompts, who freaking knew! I certainly bloody well didn’t. The first prompt was simply a given amount of time to write, the second a picture like I’d half remembered from high school and the third a guided meditation. Interestingly my writing was pretty different for each prompt. I started writing a diary, moved to a story and finished with an almost poem (I say almost because I ran out of time). My handwriting was also messier for the first 2 compared to the guided meditation prompt.

By the end of it I was pretty impressed. I had accomplished new writing but I had also learnt new techniques to get me to write. I’ve tried the set time thing before (I do 10 minute blocks when I’m finding it hard to write, somehow the timer ticking down kicks my creative juices into high gear) and I can see how picture prompts and meditation can work if you are stuck for ideas. But that is not what I really got out of it, it was the breaking down of a moment (like a picture) and putting it into writing. This had me focusing on details and how to paint it in the reader’s mind. I was learning the basics of showing and not telling, something I’m determined to learn more of.

Finally, it reinvigorated my love of writing, not that it went away, but this workshop certainly increased it. And for that I’m thankful. So if you are thinking of going to a workshop and are unsure if you will benefit, do it! Even if you learn one thing, that one thing may just be important 🙂

P.S. That competition I was entering last week? Yeah, I left it too late, turns out I need a decent amount of time in between  drafts to be able to edit properly. Live and learn I guess.

Back Up and the Last Minute

If you in anyway work on a computer/tablet/smart device, please back up your work. RIGHT NOW!! Please, I’m trying to save you from heart ache in case your chosen device fails. I know what I’m talking about as I came perilously close to that happening this week.

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Although small, a USB is awesome for saving your work on.

Firstly let me make it clear that I do save my work to my computer as well as a USB, the trouble is that I only save to the USB sporadically. This caused me much heart ache when my computer started doing its own thing this week. Thankfully the issue was resolved, but it did take a while and in the mean time I had to contend with the fact that about 3 weeks worth of work was potentially gone. When everything started working again like normal I saved all my work on 2 different USBs, just in case. I also now save to the USBs every time I finish for the day. An extra few minutes is nothing compared to losing my work.

So please, be smarter with your work than I have previously been. You spend a lot of energy on it, don’t let it be lost because of laziness.

Also, don’t leave things to the last minute. I was rather well known for doing this in high school and university and I would dearly love to say that I have learnt the folly of my ways and no longer do so, but sadly this weekend has proven otherwise. You see, I planned to enter a writing competition with a due date of the 15th of January. First draft was completed quickly and then I let it stagnate, procrastinating like I had in the past. I thought I had got past this fault, but it once again has raised its head.

I didn’t even realise I was doing it until I saw it was the 15th and I figured I may have left my run a bit late (I’m still giving it a go, I have until midnight). I have done precisely one edit and am still 200 words over the limit. Still, I do generally work well under pressure, I’ll let you know next week if I made the deadline or not.

But I have plans for this to never happen again. I’ve already solved the problem of not backing up my work. The USB sits next to my computer, ready for use. And to be completely honest, the scare I had was enough to make me save my work multiple times. As to leaving my story to the last minute, that’s a little more complicated. After a bit of thinking the reason I did it this time is because I wasn’t sure of what story my entry was telling. I was unconsciously putting it off because I wasn’t happy with it. Being forced to work on it or miss out on the competition entirely made it clear how I felt about it.

And because I am aware of it I can put steps in place to stop this from happening again, namely a timeline for when things need to be completed. In theory it should work, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Anyway, save your work on a USB or something similar and have a fantastic week creating 🙂

Bullet journal: 2017 in focus

Traditionally a new year means new resolutions and a willingness to change and strive for your goals. Usually I make goals for the year, write them down and forget about them, accidentally accomplishing some of them along the way. This year I have gone for something slightly different. A bullet journal.

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A bullet journal is a cross between a diary and a journal, but really you can use it however you want.

This little gem of a thing was brought to my attention by a private Facebook group I belong to and I have to say that I’m really in love with it. Basically a bullet journal is setting yourself up for the year ahead, mapping out what is important to you and how you are going to accomplish it. You can go as in depth with it as you like (some people use it as a diary as well as for goal setting purposes) and I have to say that mine started out as simple and I’m gradually adding more pages to it.

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My index page and what I’m using my bullet journal for. 

To start with I jotted down the things I wanted to keep track of this year on scrap paper. That turned out to be exercise, writing and finances. Then I figured out when I wanted to achieve them by and sorted out ways to achieve it. The bullet journal allows you to keep track of your progress and is brilliant to look back on when you feel like you are treading water and going absolutely nowhere.

Now, you can buy bullet journals online (google bullet journals to find your nearest stockist), but I have to say that I am really liking the idea of making your own. I grabbed an empty notebook I had, googled bullet journals and looked at Pinterest for inspiration and away I went. This is where I need to make it clear that I am not posting this to tell you how to make a bullet journal, there are enough blog posts and internet articles out there on the subject and you can google that. What I am telling you is what a fantastic tool they are for accomplishing your goals.

Bullet journals quickly make it very clear to you what is most important to you and what exactly you are prepared to do to get there. If you want to run a marathon, it’s a great way to break it down into manageable  chunks and make sure you get there. Same if you want to write a book, learn to knit or any other thing that is important to you. You can even use it to figure out ways to spend more time with your family or something similar.

Really, when it comes down to it, bullet journals are a concise way of mapping your goals and dreams and how you are going to get there. After all, a goal is simply a dream with a plan and a new year is a great time to figure all this out. Think of it as new year resolutions amplified.

Now I know it’s early days in my bullet journal career so I promise to give you an update on it in a few months time. But really, so far, I’m impressed and if nothing else, I clearly know where I am going at the start of 2017. So tell me, what would you put in your bullet journal? What is your focus for 2017