Tag Archives: creativity

How to Step out of the Dark

How to Step out of the Dark

A Writer’s Guide to Creative Self-Expression

As first published on Medium. Please feel free to join me there.

Writing is by its nature a solitary affair. Although we may duet on a poem, seek advice on this fact or that, in essence, we sit, write and publish on our own. Other people walk by our windows, peer in at our small, homemade offices, favourite seats and coffee mugs, shake their heads with pity at our flickering candles and laptop screens and wander away. Yes, writing is a lonesome trade, and it’s just how we like it. It’s the others that don’t understand, not us that’s strange.

For most writers, the hours typing on a keyboard are the best hours of our lives. We love the act of creation, be it in the thinking, or transferring said thoughts to paper, so to speak. There’s no effort to being alone because being alone is what we crave: time to think; time to reflect; time to unravel the worlds that others will tread. We impart our ideas to books, short stories and poems, lean back in our chairs and then think: what now?

For the introverted writer, the next stage of creation is the hardest. There are so many places to send work, so many ways to publish and we’re too scared to use any of them. At least, most are and I include my past self in this. So, what do we do?

The first thing is to not stop. No matter how scary the great, wide world appears, we should never stop doing what we love. Writing out our hearts gives us the same freedom that others find in sport, communal drinking, and social networking. And it is this latter item that can help a writer most.

Hiding behind a computer screen is much easier than hiding behind a book and not just because people cannot see your feet and hair — if you’ve got some. A computer gives us access to the world beyond our windows in privacy. And I assure you, the people out there really do want to read what we’ve written. There are so many great ways to find readers, magazines and publishers out there and just from asking/typing the right questions. We can all do that when no one is watching.

Below is a list of the most active and easiest Social Networks to scan and glean information from:

  1. Twitter
  2. Medium
  3. Facebook
  4. Instagram
  5. Google Plus
  6. Pinterest

All the above can furnish a novice or accomplished writer with great information. Type for example ‘UK/US Publishers’ into a Facebook search or Twitter and you will be amazed at what is revealed. Type ‘Literary Magazines’ into Medium and you’ll be furnished with lots of ‘in-house’ publications to try your hand with. Type ‘Writer’s Resources’ into Pinterest and it will knock your socks off. Then see if you like the look of what they have to offer. Do they sound like your cup of tea? Do they look good? There’s even a chance you’ll already know by association someone that writes for them. Just try those searches and different connotations of the same questions — they invariably yield contrasting results.

Then comes the hardest thing sending your precious work out. The worries begin. What happens if they don’t like it? What happens if they think I’m rubbish? And the list goes on. Think of it this way and it might help. When I first started submitting work, I was very nervous. My self-confidence was low. I then saw an article backed up by several quality Online Magazines that said this: only three percent of all submissions are accepted. Argggghhh!!!!

You could go ‘OH NO!’ and never submit so much as a haiku. But I looked at it rather differently and it was a great help. I said to myself that I should not worry in the least until a piece of work had been returned to me ninety-seven times. Only after that was I a failure and even then only due to someone else’s opinion. But I’ve never had a piece of work rejected more than six times as it happens. So what a fool I would have been to have given up. You should never give up if you are doing what you love.

In conclusion, I say the following. Enjoy writing what you want, how you want, where you want. When you’ve finished, don’t be scared. I’d be surprised if you aren’t a member of at least one of the social networks above — you’re probably reading this on one of them right now. Use them. Plunder them. Take advantage of the world that is only a keystroke away. No more hiding in the dark when you’ve such wonderful lights to shine for others.

Thank you for reading

Richard

Richard M. Ankers

Author of The Eternals Series

The Eternals

Hunter Hunted

Into Eternity (Soon!)

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Outlining Tips & Story Structuring

Outlining Tips & Story Structuring

Each To Their Own

This is my latest post to aid aspiring writers on my Medium site. I hope you find it useful.

Every writer has their own unique way of structuring/preparing for their next novel. Some people go into great detail mapping every minutiae from basics like character eye colour to what that individual did fifty years before the story was even being told. Others, usually equipped with greater memories or such speed of storytelling they’ve written the thing without having time to forget details, never touch a book plan in their lives. These methods are politely known as planning or pantsing, (flying by the seat of your pants). I fall more into the latter category but do try to take pertinent notes en route. Either way, I say each to their own.

If you are a planner, the only thing required is a good notebook and pen, or a digital notes/outlining program. If you are a pantser, all you need is some peace and quiet in which to write.

There are, however, a few tricks to help with either method and a few good pieces of software too. I hope the two following lists are some help on both scores. Note: I have omitted some of the big boys like Microsoft Word and Scrivener from this post. The reason for this, is I for one don’t like clutter. I often find having relevant information outside of the application you’re writing on frees your mind when using it. This is a personal thing, but it is true for me.

Tips

  1. Recurring Characters. I write hundreds of short stories ranging from about fifty to five-thousand words. I enjoy them. But I have found that incorporating recurring characters into short stories, set free from the confines of their individual novels, can really give you as the writer a taste for that person. You may never use the story: does it matter if you enjoyed writing it? You may really like it and wish to send it out on submission: just change the characters names so they don’t interfere with any long form work. You may really get your teeth into it and wish to add it into the novel you’re writing: great, good for you! All of these are beneficial.
  2. Names. Sometimes all a book or a character within it needs are appropriate names. The difference between being a ‘WOW!’ character and a ‘MEH!’ character can be the difference between being called Colin or Cornelius. There are hundreds of name reference sites on the internet with pertinent reasons for those names i.e. Oxford Reference. Make use of them. Even knowing why a child is named after an appropriate god/goddess etcetera can assist in a story’s roots and overall believability.
  3. Tags. I was introduced to the world of tagging by a friend. They said that if you use software where you can replace putting folders of information all over the place, which inevitably wastes time in wondering how and why you put something somewhere, and replace this with simple tagging i.e. #John, a character’s name, you will never forget it. She was right, too. I always do this now. You never forget a story title or the lead character, but you may well forget why you put work in a folder labelled ‘relevant information’ or ‘miscellaneous’.
  4. Lists. Instead of writing reams of information about whatever, list it. Lists are quick, to the point and easy to read. Even starting details off with a list can help. NB. Many notes applications now include list making facilities just like iA Writer which I’m using now). Just have a go. I think you’ll find it helps.
  5. Ask. Never be afraid to ask someone you trust of their opinion. Don’t stew and ponder for ages on if something works if someone else can take a five minute look at it and give you an immediate thumbs up or down. Most people would love to help someone whose writing they enjoy.

As I mentioned earlier, there are some wonderful outlining applications available to assist writers. Here is a personal list of ones I have used and can recommend.

Outlining Applications

iThoughtsX

iThoughtsX is a multi-platform outlining application. One of the crème de la crème pieces of software in this category, you can do everything from full-scale mind maps to notes, to ToDo lists, and so much more besides. There is a learning curve, but when the software has been around as long as this one, you know you’ve time to master it.

OmniOutliner

OmniOutliner is available on Mac and iOS and has a fourteen day free trial. It’s hard to list all the capabilities of this outliner — it does so much — so I’d suggest clicking the link and taking a look.

MindNode

MindNode is reminiscent of iThoughtsX. I would suggest it is easier to learn and cleaner in presentation but doesn’t do quite as much. This is not always such a bad thing.

Integrated Notebooks

An often forgotten tool for writers are the integrated notebooks that are preinstalled on computers i.e. Apple Notes and Microsoft OneNote. As well as being very capable notebooks, they often offer indenting, simple formatting and reliable syncing. They are also usually free.

I hope some of the above information is useful to you. Whether you like to plan your way through every scene or just get on with the writing, you will almost certainly end up taking some form of notes on your project. Treat these notes well and they will look after you from ‘pre’ to ‘post’ publication. As always, I wish you well with your writing.

Richard

Richard M. Ankers

Author of The Eternals Series

The Eternals

Hunter Hunted

Into Eternity (Very Soon!)

Writing Tools for the Professional Writer

Writing Tools for the Professional Writer

Author’s Note: This is a copy of my latest post on Medium. I hope you find it useful.

In real life, I’m not a fussy man. Sure, I like what I like — who doesn’t? — but my tastes are simple. This is not the case in my literary life.

Let’s get the main issue out of the way: I hate Microsoft Word! I use it when I have to and no more. A modern writer does not need every tool in the book only a keypad and screen to see which keys they’ve tapped. A proliferation of ‘tat’ as my Grandad used to say, or, stuff for stuff’s sake, serves only one purpose and that is to delay the art of actual creation.

‘Okay!’ you shout. ‘What should I use?’

I would never tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t write with as it is so individual a choice, but I can share what I use and hope it helps you.

You will have heard of many of these and I apologise in advance that most are for the Mac or iOS as they are my working platforms.

Novels

This is a simple choice for an un-simple — can I say that? — application: Scrivener.

Scrivener is a do-all tool that can and do as little or as much as you wish it to. I use Scrivener for all long-form writing. I won’t go into details because it will bore you, but the main reasons I love it, are as follows.

  1. Scrivener handles all aspects of compiling your manuscript so you don’t have to worry about it.
  2. Scrivener is adjustable. I like to feel comfortable when I write. I like information available, index cards etcetera, but out of the way. I like a fullscreen mode, focus mode, dark backgrounds and the list goes on. I doubt there’s anything a writer could think of that Scrivener does not do.
  3. Most of all, it’s reliable and multi-platform. Plus, now that there’s an iOS and companion, although I found the sync hard to set up, the whole ensemble is complete.

Note: I would like to add that I found diving straight into Scrivener and playing around, much easier than watching the screencast, (it boggled my weak mind). Others may laugh at this, but better to be truthful.

Prowritingaid. I finish all my compositions by putting them through Prowritingaid.com. You can paste up to 3000 words into it and have the site evaluate all possible mistakes. Take the results with a pinch of salt and learn from them. This is superb and I cannot recommend it enough. I have the full unlimited version but the free one will suffice most people.

Grammarly. When I have put my work through the above site, I then do so again through Grammarly. I find Grammarly better at picking up punctuation issues than Prowritingaid but the latter better at passive voice and adverb advice. Again, Grammarly has paid and free plans so there’s no excuse for not being able to use it.

Short-form Writing

Ah, here we go. As I said at the start, I am a fussy, fussy writer. I like to write on certain coloured backgrounds particularly on small devices. The same goes for fonts and general presentation. The following accommodate my foibles.

  1. Ulysses: Available on Mac and iOS. Ulysses is the closest simple writing app to Scrivener. It uses Markdown, which I love and am using now, but allows for customisation and general simplicity of views.
  2. Byword: As above but much simpler. You don’t have the choice of customisation with Byword as some apps; you don’t need to. The company’s choice of tools is perfect for plain, non-complicated writing in any genre or style.
  3. iA Writer: As above but arguably even simpler as you get less choice with fonts. Another beautiful Markdown writer that makes the job of typing out a story a true pleasure. (This actual post is written and posted using iA Writer).

Author’s Note: All three of the writers above have free services to publish direct to various blogging platforms, (VERY USEFUL).

NB: I would like to give an honourable mention to the new Bear app (Mac and iOS). For general notes and a bit of all the above, the Bear application is stunningly beautiful. A true pleasure to use.

I would also like to mention Pixabay.com for sourcing great free images. They, too, also have an iOS app.

Most Important

You! There are no tools to replace a writer’s imagination. Let your thoughts flow and fingers type. Always write the way you want, about what you want, and others will see your heart and talent shine through. Everyone has talent. Never take no for an answer when it comes to writing. Keep going. Make it a habit. Enjoy it.

I hope you enjoyed this post and can make use of some or all of my recommendations. If nothing else, try the grammar checkers.

Thank you for reading

Richard

Richard M. Ankers

Author of The Eternals Series

Shhh, don’t tell! The conclusion to the series, Into Eternity, available very soon.

Ooh, very exciting!

The Dream Takers

What’s worse, being told you’re not good enough, or not being told anything at all? That is a question I have asked myself many times. Is it better to be ridiculed and move on, or left wondering, wondering and wondering again. I wondered for far too long and would help others avoid such a lack of hope. And my personal answer to the question is, both. You’re all good enough.

There are so many people out there who think themselves a lesser person, not good enough, undervalued and forgotten. They shouldn’t. But I can say this with a certainty I would never have done in the past, there are wondrous hidden gems in this digital world just waiting to be polished. I could name many, (that’s saying something for a man with no memory) but it wouldn’t be fair on those I didn’t list. There are turns of phrase, twisting of words, photographs from superlative angles and with stunning shades, poems that move and poems to laugh to. The list goes on. Every word has value and every image deserves praise. If you can recognise this and strive to be better at every turn, you’re on the road to happiness. I know.

Never let anyone tell you you’re not good enough. Never let anyone take your dreams away. Never let anyone stop you being the you you want to be. We aren’t here long enough for regrets.  

Accepted Truths

It contorts and constricts,
Tracing the lines of veins
Up and in,
Then strangling them.
I am being asphyxiated,
Ravaged by myself.
This is not meant to be.
This is not why I am me.
Or is it?
Is this state of perpetual displeasure,
This dissatisfaction of self,
How it will always be?
The curse of creativity, says one.
The workings of a fractured mind, reads a second.
I do not wish to read the third.
I ponder and muse,
Mired in a melancholy that tastes of bitter earth.
The world stirs.
It hears me.
And, as I gaze out of the window
To a darkening sky and building cloud,
I wonder,
Am I looking at the same view as everyone else,
Or my own?
And does it even matter
If the mind won’t accept the truth?
I don’t care,
I wouldn’t believe the answer, anyway.

Vernacular Bliss



 
 I’ve captured a moment,
 Held it in place,
 Glued to my dreams
 Like memories of lace.
 Delicate textures,
 Tumbling through grey,
 Neural intoxicant
 Making brain play.
 They stimulate mind,
 And I’m glad that they do;
 For without their coaxing
 I think that I’d stew.
 A see-sawing balance
 Between words and abyss,
 Turns letters on paper
 To vernacular bliss.