Ignoring Advice from Stephen King

File:Onwriting.jpgOn Writing by Stephen King isn’t really a book of advice for writers, its about one man’s journey to becoming a writer. The advice is there between the anecdotes and the difficulties he’s encountered along the way. If there is one thing he believes is the best way to write a book it’s to get the story out from beginning to end without plotting in advance because you just don’t know where the story is going to take you.

That’s true, I have written scenes where my characters have taken over, said or done something I wasn’t expecting and taken the story in an unexpected direction which meant having to change the plan, often substantially. In the story I’m currently writing Cora’s tutor tells her something I expected to keep secret from her for a few more chapters. I couldn’t believe he’d done that. It changed everything and the twenty thousand word synopsis I’d written suddenly became obsolete.

I had two choices. I could rewrite the scene the way I’d originally planned or I could stick with the new version and see what happened, adapting the plan I thought I would be following as I went along. Since I liked the new version, and I think these spontaneous changes happen for a reason, I decided to stick with it.

Like Mr King, a lot of my ideas begin with a ‘what if’ moment, but I have to transfer that initial flash of light bulb inspiration into an outline and from there I compile a chapter list, breaking the story up into pieces, scene by scene, so I have something to follow. Then I can write the scenes that have already formed in my head. I rarely write the story in order and only work from chapter to chapter if no other scenes present themselves.

I often edit as I go too. A big no no if you’re trying to get the story out from start to finish. But when I step away from the keyboard at the end of a writing session the scene bubbles away in my subconscious, throwing up words, descriptions and dialogue that weren’t there during a first frantic typing. Better to go back and put them in now before they fade from memory as quickly as they emerged.

If I had the luxury of being able to sit and write and write for hours on end, instead of grabbing the odd fifteen minutes or so before having to leave the house or fit it in to the breaks between lectures, would I follow Stephen King’s advice? Probably not.

I like having my map, but even the map gets redrawn when the story starts to write itself and escapes the boundaries into new territory. It’s a guide not a rule book. If I’d written Blackfeather from start to finish when I first had the idea it would have been a stand-alone story with a soppy happy ending and, thankfully, that didn’t happen. Of course, editing might have changed that. In the end it’s not how you get the story down that’s important, only that you do.

Nel Ashley is the author of Blackfeather – a Fallen Angel Paranormal Romance  and Immortal, the second book in the Blackfeather Series. She is currently working on her third novel, Persephone Reborn, a vampire romance influenced by Greek mythology.

You can also connect with Nel on Facebook and Twitter

 

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Another Year Over

 Last Thursday was the last exam of the year and now that I’m just about over the trauma it’s time to start planning for the summer. I started looking over what I’ve already written for ‘Persephone Reborn’ last night and although I have a synopsis, some rough chapters and a lot of notes totaling nearly twenty thousand words there is still a long way to go.

Frankly, it is a bit of a mess and the summer seems no where near long enough. But, I am determined to crack on with it and start kicking it in to shape. Will power is key. Sitting down everyday just to keep working through the plot and getting the story down is the plan, except I’ve lost track of the number of times I go back to chapter one and change the opening paragraphs because it’s too cliche, or gives the game away, or because the characters keep changing how they look in my head.

I think it was Stephen King who said you can’t write a scene until you’ve lived it. That might not be an exact quote, but it’s close enough and so I spend a huge amount of my time staring into space whilst I visualise the story, over and over and over again. It was a great piece of advice, because you realise there are things going on around your characters and they’re not just standing doing nothing while they talk to each other. When you get really good at it you can disappear into your imaginary world and become your characters or an invisible observer. If you can get that experience down on paper your readers will feel the same. That’s the hope anyway.

I also plan to get Blackfeather and Immortal out in paperback and maybe submit a couple of short stories to competitions or magazines. So it looks like it’s going to be a busy summer ahead. I’ll do my best to keep you posted.

Nel Ashley is the author of Blackfeather – a Fallen Angel Paranormal Romance  and Immortal, the second book in the Blackfeather Series. She is currently working on her third novel, Persephone Reborn, a vampire romance influenced by Greek mythology.

You can also connect with Nel on Facebook and Twitter

 

 

 

Trust The Universe

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The natural and preferred habitat of a writer is solitude, ideally a country cottage in the middle of nowhere or deep in a dark wood off the beaten track surrounded by a magic mist that keeps the world at bay. My family are always joking that if I became a famous author I’d hate it because that would mean TV appearances, book signings and the possibility of having to interact with other people. The idea gives me goosebumps and I’ve had to think about what I want and expect from being an independent author. Having a bestseller would be nice, the money would be welcome too, I can’t deny that, but I write because I love it and when I get an idea for a story in my head I HAVE to write it. The characters, the plot, the locations don’t leave me alone until I get it onto the screen or on to paper. Often I wake up in the middle of the night to scribble down a scene or conversation before my scatterbrain memory forgets a really good piece of description or dialogue. So the whole idea of social media is anathema to me.

As independent authors we are told that the only way to build a platform, get our name out there and sell our books is to maintain a presence on social media akin to an omnipresent god. It’s exhausting and I hate it. We are supposed to endlessly tweet, post on Facebook, blog, spend time leaving comments on forum after forum interacting with others, but at the same time are warned not to oversell our wares or it will turn people off. Getting the balance right is not easy. A couple of weeks ago I came across a post by another writer who had decided that she wasn’t going to play the game anymore and was winding down her commitment to socialising both on and off the internet so she could do more of the things she wanted to do and reduce the stress in her life. She wasn’t worried about sales. Then I came across this post by Derek Haines, another self published author, that made a lot of sense.

Having struggled with social media it seems to me that the best thing to do is sit back, relax and let the universe take care of it. Those who find, buy and read my books were meant to find them without any hard sell from me. Of course, some kind of presence is still required, but why fret about followers? The answer is to keep writing, doing what you love to do and don’t force the rest.

Nel Ashley is the author of Blackfeather – a Fallen Angel Paranormal Romance  and Immortal, the second book in the Blackfeather Series. She is currently working on her third novel, Persephone Reborn, a vampire romance influenced by Greek mythology.

You can also connect with Nel on Facebook and Twitter

 

 

 

 

Your Guardian Angel and You – A Guide

The Blackfeather universe contains several mythological and religious themes including angels, demons and The Watchers. The abilities and appearance of these supernatural beings in the Blackfeather Series of books may not have any bearing on similar themes in the real world. To that end, I felt I should explain a few of the concepts as they appear in the books.

We’ll take a look at several attributes of angelic beings over the next few posts. Let’s start with the connection between guardian angel and ward. 

The Bond Between Guardian Angel And Ward 

797b9-angelstatueWhat Is A Guardian Angel? 
A guardian angel is an invisible companion, appointed by Heaven, to watch over a human. They are assigned to a soul at the birth of their first human incarnation and stay with them through all lifetimes lived by that one particular soul.

What Do They Do? 
Their duties include gentle encouragement and nudges in the right direction along a soul’s chosen life path. They can whisper suggestions into the mind of their charge, making them believe they are their own thoughts, but they must not make decisions for them or interfere in a human being’s free will. Ultimately, the choice to take one path over another belongs to the human whose decision it is to make.
They may keep their charges safe from harm in small ways, by making them change direction or delaying them in some way in order to avoid a dangerous situation. In the same vein they can manipulate events to bring about fortuitous occurrences, e.g. being in the right place at the right time. Most people put this kind of thing down to coincidence, but in reality there are no coincidences.
This is not the same as the miraculous escapes from death that some people experience, walking away from major accidents and crashes without a scratch on them for example, or like those tales that we’ve all heard of, where a mysterious stranger has appeared to warn against certain dangerous, life threatening courses of action. These are the domain of The Watchers and will be explained in another post.
In most cases, humans are never aware of their guardian angels and blunder through life after life oblivious of the divine help they receive. Guardian angels are careful not to reveal their presence and believe falling in love with their human charges is forbidden because of the enormous risks involved, but as Ashrafel says to Kate:

“I didn’t fall because I loved you. I fell because of the consequences that came about through that love.”

The connection between Ashrafel and Kate in the Blackfeather books is far deeper than that of any other guardian and ward. They are soul-mates, in every sense of the word. Ashrafel has and would continue to spend lifetimes searching for Kate’s reincarnated soul, and without him by her side, Kate feels lost and alone.
Whether they can overcome those consequences, battle the evil that has stalked them through five centuries and find a happy ever after remains to be seen…

Nel Ashley is the author of Blackfeather – a Fallen Angel Paranormal Romance  and Immortal, the second book in the Blackfeather Series. She is currently working on her third novel, Persephone Reborn, a vampire romance influenced by Greek mythology.

You can also connect with Nel on Facebook and Twitter

Why Are All The Angels Naked?

I’ve spent the last two hours trawling through book cover design websites that offer both pre-made and custom book cover designs and have noticed a few things.

1. That prices for book covers have soared in the last two years.

2. That covers are often quite similar,this is most evident in the romance category and therefore this crosses over into paranormal romance too with some designers using the same elements on several covers. Ive also spotted different designers using the same elements as each other on covers in the same categories. Oh and I’m pretty sure that you’re not supposed to use images of well known actors or characters from T.V. Series (Angelus from Buffy – yes really!) I don’t want to find myself in a copyright lawsuit.

3. That buying a design only covers you for a certain number of sales, then you need to purchase an extended license to keep using that cover. (Some sites, not all)

And

4. That all the angels are naked.

Why?

Do they have nothing better to do than come down to Earth to seduce their charges? Are they kicked out of Heaven with nothing but the wings on their backs?

I’m beginning to wonder if my idea of romance is completely at odds with everyone else. Paranormal romance books often feature sexual content (mine is no exception, though it’s left up to the readers imagination to fill in the details), but  if that sexual content is foremost in the writing, if the plot revolves around the protagonists “getting it on” or taking it off, doesn’t that make it erotica? And that, for me, is a different genre altogether. A cover image of a man and woman with their mouths glued to each other doesn’t tell me anything about your book. Does it actually have a plot, a quest, an adventure, a mystery? Or is it just about the sex?

Perhaps we should take pity on these angels if the only item of clothing they own is a well placed feather; start a charity for example, donate 10% of all our book sales to “Jumpers for the Fallen” or “Armani for Angels”. I happen to know that Lucifer loves an Armani suit, though I doubt he needs my help to buy him one.

I came away from my cover search disappointed and frustrated. I’m a writer not a cover designer, but it seems the only way to get what you want, at a price you can afford, is to become a Jack of All Publishing Trades.

Nel Ashley is the author of Blackfeather – a Fallen Angel Paranormal Romance  and Immortal, the second book in the Blackfeather Series. She is currently working on her third novel, Persephone Reborn, a vampire romance influenced by Greek mythology.

You can also connect with Nel on Facebook and Twitter

 

 

 

 

Why Writer’s Block is a Myth

Everybody’s heard of “writer’s block” even if you’re not a writer yourself. It’s been used by writers for years to explain why their last book took x amount of years to write instead of several months and it’s the usual reason behind every late manuscript, article, blog post etc etc. But, some writers will also tell you that it’s a myth. That writer’s block doesn’t really exist and that: “There are no blocked writers only lazy writers.”

They’ll tell you that -“writers write” and that even if you’re only getting down nonsense on a page, or writing about your day and how awful it’s been, that’s the only way you can keep calling yourself a writer.

Well, I’d have to disagree.

I spend probably 65 – 70% of my time staring off into the middle distance visualising scenes I’m going to write, might write or may never bother to write, in an attempt to really see my story as it happens. I believe Stephen King advises writers to do this so that they can write a scene with credibility. You have to see it first before you write it. But whilst I’m doing that I’m not actually writing. Only when I can see that scene as plain as if it happened right in front of my eyes do I put pen to paper or fingers on keys.

I know at least one other person who writes like this (a certain comic book writer) who said that most of his life has been spent staring at walls.

I see absolutely no point in churning out garbage for the sake of calling it writing when you could be dreaming up the plot of your next bestseller or setting the scene for the meeting of your star-crossed protagonists. And sometimes, in between all this there will be days when you can’t think of the words your hero wants to say, or see how the light falls on the brutally murdered corpse of your latest victim. That doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a writer.

Writer’s block isn’t a myth it’s your brain screaming “Hey I need a rest, OK?” So give yourself a break. You’re still a writer, not a lazy writer. Ideas and inspiration can’t be forced they come when they’re ready.

Writers write, but in between they think and they dream.

Nel Ashley is the author of Blackfeather – a Fallen Angel Paranormal Romance  and Immortal, the second book in the Blackfeather Series. She is currently working on her third novel, Persephone Reborn, a vampire romance influenced by Greek mythology.

You can also connect with Nel on Facebook and Twitter

 

The Dark Hedges

This is The Dark Hedges in Ballymoney, Co.Antrim, Northern Ireland. Originally planted by the Stuart family as an impressive approach to their home, Gracehill House, the trees are now over two hundred years old.

The lane is said to be haunted by The Grey Lady who glides silently through the trees until she passes the last beech tree, whereupon she fades away.

It reminds me of the country lane that Kate is driving down after rushing from the church with the strange box she has found in the church (Blackfeather, Chapter One). Imagine travelling down here when a mysterious figure suddenly appears in front of your speeding car and unable to stop in time you drive straight through him.

Nel Ashley is the author of Blackfeather – a Fallen Angel Paranormal Romance  and Immortal, the second book in the Blackfeather Series. She is currently working on her third novel, Persephone Reborn, a vampire romance influenced by Greek mythology.

You can also connect with Nel on Facebook and Twitter