Monthly Archives: April 2013

Writing from a female point of view…..

300px-Symbols-Venus-Mars-joined-togetherOK so let’s be clear from the outset. I am not a woman. There lies the problem. I am not a woman. I don’t want to be a woman- let’s be clear about that too- although I have the utmost respect for the opposite sex (you’re digging a hole here man- get out of it quick!) I just don’t think that I am capable of fully understanding how the thought processes of the opposite sex work (aargh-too late! you fool! you’ve just alienated the most intelligent half of the species- that’s half your readership gone, dumb ass! Oh no, crikey- just alienated the other half too- men really are very intelligent, erm…… honest!)

Women are from Venus and I hail from Mars- so how in all the hells am I supposed to put myself inside the head of a Woman and write convincingly– fool the reader into thinking that the images and motivations I describe are really those of the ‘fairer sex’.

These questions all came about because I made the schoolboy error of asking my lovely, intelligent, wonderful (keep it up, you may get out of the hole yet….) wife to read the first 50,000 words or so of my fledgling novel.

I sat on my hands as she gazed at the laptop, pretending that I didn’t yearn for her approval- feeling myself blush and overheat as the pressure became too great.

“I know it’s not very good,” I said, “please just be honest with me,” but not too honest- oh god don’t hate it! “what do you think? Is it as good as what you’re reading at the moment?” I glanced at the table and saw a paperback ‘female’ book with a pink cover that had stars and a cartoon shopping bag on it- crikey, not the right audience- no shopping in my story….. dammit shoulda put shopping in my story. “Don’t forget it’s just a first draft- very rough really- just thrown on the page, you know they call the first draft the ‘vomit draft’ sometimes ’cause it just gets, well, written really fast, you know?”  In my angst I began to tap a heel on the tile floor.

Wifey- intelligent, beautiful, witty, charming Wifey (ok- there are compliments and then there’s sycophancy- reel it in now, man) looked up at me over the screen, her lips pursed. I tensed as I awaited her feedback.

“Sshh,” she said, “I’m trying to read.”

Dutifully and obediently I shushed up. Although I did start to rock back and forth lightly like a child in anticipation of an ice cream sundae (hmmm chocolate sprinkles).

She finished reading, closing the lid of the laptop with an ominous click.

“Well, whad’ya think? Do you like it?” I whimpered

She paused for an age (well actually less than a second- wasn’t really a pause at all- get some perspective, fool!) “It’s……….really good,”

My heart sang for joy, yes!, yes!, I’d done it….. (note to self- received wisdom is never to ask for feedback from family members or partners, they nearly always give positive reviews even when the work is doggy doo).

“But,” (there always has to be a but- don’t you agree?) “There aren’t any female characters in it…..”

“Well…… there are,” I said defensively, “there’s the hawkish woman with the red hair.”

“She’s in one scene for about five seconds…..”

“Yes but she’s very important later on though…….”

After my chat with Wifey I felt elated and deflated at the same time. I determined that I was going to introduce a strong female character earlier on. I knew exactly the woman. The wife of one of my protagonists and there was a chapter where a scene from her point of view (POV) would be really interesting. Shouldn’t be difficult! (oh you poor naive fool).

I scooted upstairs to my wonderful office/writing room (ok so it’s the spare bedroom- what can I say, I fib sometimes, get used to it……) and blasted out a scene in a couple of hours, it had a slow and introspective beginning, building the female character, she looked at herself in the mirror, bemoaning her lost youth. As is the way with these things I also managed to introduce three additional characters that I didn’t know existed and that I am now desperate to extend the story line for (really gotta stop doing that….). The woman was strong and yet fragile- she thought how I thought that women thought (if you know what I mean….).

I was so proud, I’d cracked it, my strong female character had sprung fully formed from my mind, fully formed and ready to take on the universe……

I asked wifey to read the chapter, my excitement barely containable.

She read it quickly, then looked at me and pursed her lips.

“Well? Well?” I cried

“You really don’t know anything about women do you?” ……the world came crashing down around my ears…..

It turns out that a woman examining herself in the mirror and bemoaning the ageing process- whilst it might be the pastime of many (male and female! not being sexist- promise!) does not make for a sympathetic character. It does, however, make for a pathetic character.

In the words of Wifey, “No woman wants to read about a wrinkled old hag- unless they’re a witch. If it’s a witch then that’s OK.”

Sadly she’s not a witch (the Wife or the character….), so back to the drawing board on the female POV (Oh what does wifey know- have you seen the junk she reads? What if she’s wrong? What if millions of women are just dying to learn all about how the wrinkles will come and their hair will go grey and lank?)……..I fear my internal voice needs it’s head testing…..

Hmmm, maybe she can be a bit younger and  think about what shoes to wear all the time- I hear they’re important to women…. yes…… shoes…… (now you really have alienated half your audience!…… Nitwit!) 

60,000 words (as if that has any importance- but somehow it does- know what I mean?) and counting. Would be more but I had to delete a scene about a wrinkled old hag (who was meant to be a strong and dynamic woman in her fifties, by the way…..). Hey ho, much to learn…….

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Finding the time to write and train journeys

Lovely writing view

I reckon I don’t get much time to write, what with work and the wife and the gardening etc it’s very, very difficult to get anything done. This is particularly true as I now spend half my life and nearly every free moment looking at tweets and blogs and trying to figure out what this whole ‘social media revolution’ thing is all about.

Let’s be clear here. I’ve been afraid of social media since I first learned of it’s existence. I have friends who routinely facebook and tweet and pintrest (or whatever it’s called) all the time. I’ve remained steadfastly against such practice as, essentially, I’m shy (ahhhh, you all say).

Well all of that changed about a week ago when I realised that it wasn’t that bad after all. I’ve learned much from twittering and blogging etc and whilst I haven’t gotten around to the whole facebooky thing yet, it doesn’t hold quite the terror that it used to.

So anyway- time is a big issue and one of the ways I’ve found to get around the problem is to better utilise (arrgh, the American spell checker tells me I’ve made a spelling mistake yet again, please forgive me if reading this in America- I know there’s at least one of you from checking the stats page on wordpress!- but I plan to use English spelling as I am in the UK) the time that is available to me.

Along with what seems to be the whole world at the moment, I am currently writing a book. It might surprise you to learn that 20% of the writing so far has taken place on the train. So here’s how the story goes:-

– Get up in the morning for early train to London or wherever. Pack ASUS eeePad (it’s a bit like an iPad but has a proper ‘chicklet’ keyboard- really rather brill- google it) and get off to the station. Get on train like zombie that you are in the morning (arrgh, it’s cold, arrgh it’s raining, arrgh I hate getting up early, arrgh where did all these people come from?). 

– Sit on train with eeePad perched on naff plastic tray that you’ve pulled down from the seatback infront of you. If lucky get window seat. If unlucky get aisle seat and prepare to have elbow banged into by every bugger that needs to get on or off, or go get a sandwic,h or go to the toilet etc etc.

– If really lucky spend entire journey on your own. Two seats just for me, hurrah! If unlucky (which is far more likely, this being the UK after all – there are a heck of a lot of people packed into a very small space here), spend the entire journey sat next to either:-

a) a very large matronly lady who actually needs three seats for her ample buttocks and spends the entire journey eating boiled sweets and breathing so heavily you think she may expire at any moment.

Or

b) a man the size of a haystack with a cold so bad you suspect he should be using a towel rather than a handkerchief- oh my god he’s making squelching sounds with is nose, blurrgh.

– Keep elbows in and lean forward intently whilst you write scenes from your little novel. Make sure you keep the screen angled toward you though (which is bloody difficult when you’re in the aisle seat….) as you don’t want matron or fat sickly man to know how bad your writing is (you imagine them standing and addressing the whole carriage- ‘oh my god, this is so funny, this guy thinks he can write. Yeah this one- right here, haha,’ everyone in the carriage roars with laughter and points at you, ‘he thinks he’s an author, all of you, look, he thinks he’s gonna be a proper writer!’

– Not put off by the laughter and pointing, continue writing for the whole journey. Get back ache and hand cramps (oh the pain…) but continue because you have to, you just have to get the damned book finished…

– Get to destination. Go to meeting. Spend whole meeting thinking about plot ideas and character profiles and story arcs. Pretend you’re paying attention when the Chair of the meeting looks at you (amazing how much you can get away with by nodding and giving the occasional ‘yes’ or ‘I agree’).

– Finish meeting, get back on train and write some more. Write like your life depended on it.

– Check word count at end of day (because for some ridiculous reason this is important to you- as if quantity makes up for quality…..) and discover you have written over 3,000 words in four hours.

The trick here? Having absolutely nothing else in the world to do. No internet. No twitter. No Blog. It’s a bit like the computer program ‘write or die’ in that you’re forced to concentrate on the task at hand- what else is there to do on a train in any case?

Newbie’s tip for the day; I use two programs for my writing at the moment:-

1) Evernote, which is great for making quick notes for plot, storyline or character (yes, occasionally in the middle of meeting- they’re never gonna figure it out, hehe) and syncing across all devices. I also use Evernote for my train (and other places!) writing as I can be sure the work is stored safely in the cloud and will be available on my desktop when I get home.

2) Scrivener, which is a program that allows you to break your novel into scenes, store character profiles and plot information- the list is endless. I bought it after a 30 day trial recently and I would recommend to anyone who is serious about writing, it makes the job so much easier (gonna write a review of Scrivener at some stage in the future).

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Adios for now

My personal NaNoWriMo just couldn’t wait

So before I started trying to write something, I read about this thing called NaNoWriMo (yes that’s how it’s written!). This is a competition that encourages prospective writers to go for it and see if they can write 50,000 words in a month. Of course, as fate would have it, they only do it every November, and I couldn’t wait to get started. So one day in the middle of March I started to do my own, personal, NaNoWriMo. Easy peasy, I thought on the first day, no problemmo. 

Rather unfortunately I hadn’t taken two factors into account:-

1) I work about 60 hours a week. This means that after I get home, have dinner with my rather lovely pregnant wife (six months today!- hello Wifey! (she reads the blog – I have to be nice to her otherwise she might make me stop blogging…… Please don’t tell her I said that!….)), after dinner and other sundry exciting tasks (empty the bin, stack the dish washer, do the washing- oh joy). I get about an hour, maybe ninety minutes if I’m lucky, to actually write something.

2) I read everywhere I looked that I needed to have a presence on the internet -utilising social media- if I wanted to have any hope of getting my work noticed, and this held true whether I self published or (hope of all hopes!) got a traditional publishing deal. Little did I know that by doing this I would further reduce the amount of time that I had to actually write. So far I’ve written two blogs on my experiences of social media (my extensive experience of social media and my first four days in the bloggoverse), essentially I am now completely addicted to twitter et al. Gonna write more on that in the future, believe me there’s plenty to say (stay tuned for another exciting installment……..).

The two factors above had a serious impact on my ability to get the job done. 50,000 words for an untried and untested newbie is, believe me, an enormous task (conscious here that many of you have probably done this already and are chortling away at my naivete). It went all the way to the wire, sweat dripped from my forehead, splattering on the keyboard as I completed the task with less than an hour to spare (OK slight exaggeration but it was quite hot in the lounge that night).

I’d spent years telling myself that I had a book in me (not literally, obviously– I would imagine they’re quite difficult to swallow and I don’t want to think about the other possible point of entry….). Every time I thought about writing something I reasoned my way out of starting. You don’t have the time, you’re not good enough, who would read the drivel that comes out of your brain etc etc. Yet now, as I write this blog, I’m past the half way point on my first novel.

The reality is I found the time, despite the fact I thought I had none. I scrounged it up at the end of the night, on the train (there’s a story to tell there, believe me). You name it, I was writing in every spare moment. The difference between this month and all the others of my life? I didn’t watch as much TV- that was all. Everything else continued as normal, I still went out, I still saw my friends, hell- even my wife is still speaking to me (oh thank-you god….).

The moral of this (rather serious for once, sorry about that- will return to the funny- promise) story from a newbie writer? If I can do it anyone can. Simple as that. Also- try out a target- 50,000 words in a month, whatever, it doesn’t matter, it will keep you focused on the task at hand.

If you like this blog then don’t forget to check out the others, or even follow (there’s a button on the top right- it says ‘follow’ on it, which is quite helpful really)…….. you never know you might not regret it.

PS- note to self from subconscious (because it knows you will read and re-read this blog at least 10 times, you are. after all, the top visitor to the site)- Stop all this flippin blogging and get on with the novel you great TWERP. You may have finished the first 50,000 words of the first draft but you still have to finish the novel and then the real work will start, (you have to edit and re-write and edit again and again). Don’t you dare rest on your laurels now (and while we’re at it- who the heck do you think you are telling other people how to do it when you just started yourself? That’s just flipping arrogant, that is……).

My first four days in the bloggoverse

First 4 days in the bloggoverse

 

So…..the story so far,

1) Attempt to engage in social media, oh the highs and lows! See previous blog (I think I managed to link to it!)

2) Get really, truly excited when you get your first like (hurrah, hurray!). Then ponder what this means. Oh crikey.  What are the rules here? Am I supposed to follow back? Can they get insulted if I don’t? How do you do it anyway? Is there a rule book anywhere. Crap, how is this thing supposed to work anyway?

3) Try again  to concentrate on your book (‘write me’ it whispers petulantly, ‘you promised you would write me…’).

4) Fail in your attempt to concentrate on book as you watch more ‘likes’ appear on your blog. They like the blog, they like the blog. Oh joy, oh joy. Oh boy, twelve people like it now, don’t upset them, they might never come back……

5) Puzzle for an age over how they found you- no one liked the first blog, why would they like the second. No, wait! Someone liked the first blog but you didn’t notice!……. Nope, hang on a minute….. that’s your own avatar staring back…..accusing “what kind of fool follows himself?” shouts the rather beautiful sunset icon, “there must be some kind of rule against things like that!’.

 “But I  don’t remember pressing my own like button,” you say, “oh my god can someone impersonate me on the internet?” Nope, don’t think so, you’re just a bona fide idiot….

6) Google the internet for other people called Jason K Lewis just in case there is a full scale impersonation campaign going on. Turns out you’re already on facebook and something called ‘Linkdin’ and you also work for a real estate company. You go to the University of Minnesota and you’ve served a three year prison sentence. But that’s not me, I never……Oh why didn’t my parents give me a different name! (wipe tears away, blow nose loudly).

7) Etiquette! Spend an hour searching for advice on bloggerly etiquette.  Does the universe end if you follow yourself?  No, please,  it was an accident. I didn’t mean to…..please don’t ban me or bar me or block me or whatever the special word is in this world…. Oh god no, it says here you should blog EVERY DAY!

Saw a quote on twitter (OMG 41 followers!- but that’s another story…) that went something like this:-

“Being a good writer is 3% talent and 97% not being distracted by the internet.”
47,000 words and only two days to complete my own personal nanowrimo, would be there already but for the glorious bloggoverse….

My extensive experience of social media

Right then, so here’s how it seems to go so far:-

Step 1:-

Start your blog- become obsessed by trying to figure out what a blog is and how it works. Spend hours trying to work out how the whole thing can be fashioned into something useful. Find a picture of the view from your ‘writing room’ (read ‘office’……. well actually the upstairs spare bedroom, gotta stop telling pork pies…) and use that view (an ‘Avatar’ but not as good as the movie, and certainly not in 3D) to represent you in your internet meanderings.

Then look at the stats page- do it every hour, hell, wake up at 6:30am on a Saturday morning and check it.

Reaction to statistics page on WordPress;- “Oh my god, I have a view! Someone viewed by blogpost! Wow that was quick. How exciting!”- No, not really, that was just you viewing your own blog from a different device, you nitwit…..

Step 2:-

Start your twittery thing- become obsessed with your twittery thing (this is not a metaphor for something else I hasten to add- my teenage years are long behind me).

Check your twitter account obsessively, every thirty minutes or so. Jump for joy every time you get a new follower, oh my god I have twenty followers! (because it really matters- really it does- it is now the most important thing in your life).

Forget the pregnant wife downstairs, crying out for attention. Forget the book in process, staring at you from the secondary screen hooked up to your laptop (‘write me,’ it whispers, ‘you have to write me.’)

Check twitter again. “I only have nineteen followers!” horror of horrors, someone has decided I am not interesting enough to follow. They’ve stopped caring, they must hate me. Oh calamity! The pain, the pain….

Step 3:-

Become so obsessed with your waning fortunes in social media experimentation that you have to write another blog so that you can read it to yourself when you check your blogsite again in an hours time- because of course that is the most important thing you have to do. In a painful moment of realisation *(no Mr Spellchecker, that is how we spell it in England. With an ‘s’ not a ‘z’.) Oh, no, don’t write that, you might alienate all those American people who will read your blog in their thousands when they realise (‘s’ again, hurrah) how interesting it is.* you notice it is past 2pm already. Time to check twitter again, maybe he changed his mind….

Wait,……just hang on a minute. None of this is important. If no one ever reads the blog it doesn’t actually matter. If no one follows on twitter, the world does not end. The only thing that’s important is the book (after the pregnant wife, of course, i’m not that thoughtless).

43,000 words and counting. But only 600 in the last two days- all thanks to blogging and tweeting.

The moral of this story from a novice? Do the important stuff first- just write for gods sake write.

P.S. Jason, when you read this again in an hour, follow your own advice! and brush your hair- you look like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards…..

Blog post numero uno

OK. So as far as I can tell (as a confirmed social media phobe) it goes something like this:-

Want to be a published writer? CHECK

Get a blogpost- CHECK

Get one of those tweety things- CHECK

Get a Google+ wotsit- CHECK (bit empty at the mo though)

Start the whole networking thingy- CHECK (sort of- no actually that’s a bit of a fib. About to though)

Write a book or story- CHECKITTY CHECK (OK so that’s also a fib. I am halfway through the first draft of my first -I believe some people call it the ‘VOMIT’- draft and I am struggling with many things)

Show don’t tell- CHECK(ISH)- to tell the truth I am struggling with this one in some places- hmmm much work to be done.

Get people to want to listen to you- ARE YOU JOKING? who would want to listen to someone blather on about their issues? (told you I was a social media phobe)- definitely NOT CHECK