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Last spring I finally turned in my BA dissertation in creative writing, a year too late, but at least it was turned in.
I have had the piece I wrote lying around for a long while, and it is a piece I am particularly proud of. The piece is not written for an audience, it is not written for a reader to enjoy. This is the first piece I have ever written that was purely for me, to help me through a very though period of my life. This of course makes it very fragile and I was very hesitant to turn it as my dissertation, but I had great support from my mentor at the time who helped me shape something that was more a therapy session between me and the computer into a structured story.
After having the piece lying around for a long while, having a few friends read it, I have decided to put it out here. After all it is supposed to be a blog about writing.
The piece is called “She went quietly,” as a kudos to the song of the same name, She went quietly by Charlie Winston, which helped inspire the shape of the story. The song helped me through writing block when the story and structure had to take residence over reality.
So I have attached the story in PDF below if you want to read it.
When you are a writer and you struggle with depression, writer’s block isn’t just writer’s block anymore. Writer’s block is something that can be easily swayed when you put your will to it; but when your writer’s block comes from depression it is significantly harder.
I have experienced this first hand. In the past I’ve had writer’s block, and I’ve dealt with it. The best way to battle a block is to just sit down and write. The last few years I have struggled with clinical depression, to a degree where I have been on medication. As I write, I do realize that this post should have been written in May, during mental health awareness month, but mental illness is here for all the other months too. For us all to help remove the stigma, we need to be talking about it, not only in May.
The problem with a Writer’s block when you are depressed, is that the will to something about it is far away. For me, writing has been a sort of therapy. My writing is where I write out my anger, my hatred. It is where I can be anything I am unable to be in my real life. Two years ago, I just stopped writing, and writing has been a constant struggle since, and my depression has turned worse. It is a downward spiral; I can’t write because I’m depressed, I’m depressed because I don’t write.
Because of my illness I was unable to finish my Creative Writing Degree, I had to defer my third year and will be doing it over this year. And I do claim to have all the answers to fix it (I’m still not writing the writing I need), because there is no magical cure and it might not get easier.
To battle the writer’s block, the first step is to realize what’s the problem. In my case depression is the reason or my writer’s block, and eventually the writer’s block became a contributing cause for my depression. It was already too late for me to turn things around when I realized this, a whole semester had passed and it was three months until my dissertation was due.
When you realize what the problem is, you can take steps to fix it. In the past my writing had always been linked to my reading. If I read a lot, I would write a lot. At my writing peak I wrote 5000 words a day and I read almost 100 books that year. It is my belief that all writers need to read. To quote one of my favorite Lannister: “A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone.”
I think what I am trying to say here is that it is important to see things in context. As writers we create context in all our little pieces of work, but while we are doing this we forget to take a look at our own, very real, life. So my advice would be: read wide, read often, and read to expand your mind. Also, remember it is no shame in putting down a book that just doesn’t rub your back.
“Beware of advice—even this.”
1. Main plot
When writing you should have a clear and manageable idea or plot. Without getting stuck in a box, you should know what you want to write and where you want to go. The plot needs to be clear to you. It is also important to think of subplots and link to the main plot. It is okay to stray from the plotline when you start writing, but it is important to have a good idea of what you want to write before starting.
It is an good idea to figure out how you like to organize your writing. There’s no correct way to write a novel, but you need to know how you write best.
Some writers prefer to write a book from beginning to end. Other writers like to start with the ending. Some pick and choose, and just write whatever part they feel like writing.
What is important is that you organize it in a way that you can cope with. What I would advice is to have a list of events or scenes which you know your novel will need. That way you will be able to notice it if you drift too far off track, besides keeping a list will save you time later and help you battle writer’s block.
3. Limit research time.
Okay, I know that fiction is fiction, but sometimes it is comforting to know that you are being accurate. When I write I like to do the research immediately when a problem or question arises. In a sense this means I am always doing research, and I lose a lot of time doing it.
Time spent researching is time you could have spent writing. This is why I would advice everyone to separate their writing and research time. When I do research mid-writing I don’t get back to writing that day. If some questions arise, write them down in a separate document (or if you have scrivener write it in the research folder) and research it when you have done your writing for the day/week. Remember, if you find a good source, write it down, save it. It will come in handy when you start writing query/submission letters.
4. Expression, word choice and Point of View.
Language is clear, specific, accurate, and appropriate to the audience, purpose, and material. Every narrator you write will have different ways of expression and word choices. Many books feature multiple Points of View, and it is important to write in a way so your future reader can distinguish between narrators.
As an author your voice will always shine true, but after a while you should make word choices based on the character you are writing.
5. Grammar, spelling and formalities.
Everyone make mistakes when it comes to grammar and spelling. In your first draft it’s not too important. Leave the tweaking for the editing process. Write when you write, if you strive for perfection on your first go you might end up never finishing anything.
A story can be sorted into five important elements. These elements are necessary in order to give the story a drive and in order for the reader to get excited about and understand the story. The five elements are: Plot, setting, conflict, character & Theme (in either order).
The plot sets the action for the story. Often when I write I start with developing a plot. The plot needs to outline whats going down and what’s going to happen. What does your characters need to archive? How are they going to archive it, and what do they have to do to archive it. The plot is a series of events that will lead to the story’s conclusion.
Ex. a group of people stranded in the desert, they need to find shelter and ultimately they have to find their way out of the desert.
The conflict is a struggle in the plot. Often when I think of conflict I try to ask myself: “What is the worst thing that can happen now?” The conflict can be internal or external.
An external conflict come from outside the main character: anything from the action of another character (ex. a bandit shows up) to an environmental change (ex. a Sandstorm).
An internal conflict is a struggle inside the main character, often portrayed as a dilemma. (ex. if stranded for a long time the question of cannibalism might arise).
For me, setting almost always comes with the plot. The setting sets the scene, where are they, when are they? The setting should tell where the characters are situated: in a city, a desert, our world or a fantasy world. It should also answer what time period we are in, are they the past, in the present or somewhere in the future. This doesn’t have to be a definite answer, but the environment and the characters should reveal what time-period they exists in as the action will evolve different depending on where we are in time.
Ex. if the group in the desert are in the past they won’t have lighters (it gets very cold in the desert at nighttime), and if they are in the future they might replicators or other special gadget that will aid them (to create tension: find a way for the future tech not to work).
The characters carry out the actions. The characters could be anything, humans animals, dragons, depending on what kind of story you are writing. They can be silly, righteous, mean-spirited, funny or anything you’d like. Though there should be conflicting character-types.
When creating a character, try to avoid stereotype. In certain types of stories stereotypes can be entertaining, but mostly they are insulting and can seem like lack of effort and imagination on the writers part.
The theme of the story is the main idea and it contains the central belief or topic of the story. It contains the idea that the author would like to convey to the audience. The characters’ actions, interactions, and motivations all reflect the story’s theme. In order to find the theme, try to figure out what the story really is about.
Often the theme can be something abstract like: sacrifice, preservation of innocence, isolation or resurrection.
Moral is not included in this list, but the theme is closely linked with the moral a story tries to convey.
This might seem like silly advice…“just go for it”, but when I speak to many aspiring writers, they say that’s the thing that they really needed to hear to give them the boost to at least give writing a try!
It’s very difficult to actually get started, I know. I had the idea for Lockdown rolling around in my head for a long time before I put the pen to paper. I wrote out plans, I brainstormed, I thought about plotlines, but I couldn’t actually work out how to just start. It was intimidating, what if I failed? What if I was rubbish at writing? Then my dream would be over, just like that. In the end, I spent far too much time worrying, and not enough time writing.
Then one day, I decided to just give it a go and now I’m so grateful that I did. Sure, my first draft might have been terrible, repeating things I forgot that I’d already written, missing major plot points that I’d intended to include, but I had something written down, something real to work from – and that was an achievement in itself. I’d worked out a basis for how I was going to get the story from beginning to end and that gave me the basis I needed to get the book written.
Of course, then the real hard work started. Then I needed to get everything right, I needed to make it flow, make it interesting – funny and gory in equal measures. It took a few times, a few re-dos. I even left it for a while, so I could go back to it with a fresh perspective and that helped me a lot because it meant I was looking at it without the tunnel vision that you get when working closely on something for a very long time.
Once I had the story written, and up to a standard I was happy with, I had to decide what to do next. I chose to send it out to a bunch of publishers because why not. I’d spent a lot of time on it, so I wanted to do something productive with it! I was expecting rejections – everyone will get them, you just have to be thick-skinned enough not to let it bother you (it’s the same for bad reviews – you will never be able to write something that everyone on the entire world will like because everyone has unique, individual tastes) and of course I got a few – but then I got offered a three book contract by Triplicity Publishing. Now my second book, Forgotten, has just been published and I’m working on the third…all because I gave it a go.
I guess I’m writing this because I want to give other people the advice that I wish someone had given me. Just go for it. You’ll never know if you don’t try and isn’t it better to fail than always wonder ‘what if?’ It may even lead to some really great things, so stop worrying, stop procrastinating and simply start writing!
Author bio: ‘Lockdown’ – the first book in the AM13 series – is Samie Sand’s first novel. That and the sequel ‘Forgotten’ have been published by Triplicity Publishing. She is currently working on the 3rd and final installment. Aside from her novels, she has had a number of articles published in e-zines including one of the most popular pieces in Zombie Guide Magazine. Samie has also had a number of short stories published in a wide range of very successful anthologies.
The last couple of time I’ve been very engaged in writing, but it hasn’t entirely been my writing because I’m co-working on a very ambitious project. The last two years has been used on writing drafts and rewrite drafts and define the dos and don’ts of our world.
However this project has now escalated into something ever more ambitious, since we have decided to take our writing into a hard-core fantasy setting. We are creating our own world with maps, religions, languages, countries and of course magic. So this is a very big and very ambitious project that easily can be dragged down into failure, but we are trying and we are working very thoroughly on it.
Many would probably argue that people who are not linguists should not create languages, but we hope to prove it wrong. But if the languages don’t work, it will be no problem with erasing them, they won’t be the key to the story.
Right now it’s the world map that we are working very hard on and it’s starting to get into some shape.
This is only a part of the world though, and the poles will be moved further south and north (etc.) and made smaller as we’re not done with the whole map yet. So there will be a quite a few changes to that map and it will be made bigger and another continent or so will be added.
…you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
By Roald Dahl.
Roald Dahl (1916 – 1990) was a British novelist with Norwegian parentage, he wrote many books, unfortunately I haven’t been able to read many of them.
This will be a very brief post as I should be writing on a letter to Trinity College in Dublin and revise my movie analysis for tomorrows English class at this very moment. Read more after the break →