Rack your brains #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand

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RRack your brains 

Let’s start with a scenario…you’re scribbling (or tapping) away, totally in the zone and the characters are behaving themselves so it’s smooth sailing. You’re totally going with the flow, your mind is racing, the words pouring forth, and you start to wonder why you ever thought writing was so hard. Then the inevitable happens, you stumble over a simple word choice and reality hits you like a slap upside the head. 

I’m over dramatising, of course, but it happens more often than we like. The sudden and overwhelming desire to find the perfect word to describe a feeling, communicate meaning, or simply connect a reader to the scene. Flicking through a thesaurus doesn’t always help because the word or expression likes to hide in the deep recesses of our minds – on the tip of the tongue (or should that be fingers?) 

We can be perfectionists when it comes to our work. We want to get it right – to do justice and reflect what is in our hearts. Sometimes we are so passionate about the tale we’re weaving, we trip ourselves up over the little things.  

As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes we just need to take a step back. Use the tools we’ve developed and hope the answer will come to us. When it does, it will probably be one of those inopportune times I talked about. Like deep in the night, when our minds wake up and we’re grateful there’s a notepad beside the bed so all is not lost! 

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Quiet please #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand

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QQuiet please 

Writers love their solitude. There’s nothing quite like being in the zone, able to give yourself over to the story without any distractions. Many writers crave the quiet, which is fine unless that develops into social isolation. It’s often hard to make the transition from being in a writing space, to being around others in the ‘real’ world.  

That said, a quiet space isn’t always possible. For some it’s a luxury. So, in those cases, when we are bitten by the bug and we have to write – like, right NOW – we need to adapt to the environment. That might mean writing in a café, at the kitchen table surrounded by family (which basically equals chaos), or somewhere outdoors – like the park. 

We’re writers, so we go with the flow. But whether you can ‘switch off’ and write to your hearts content while drowning out a cacophony of background sounds, eventually something is going to invade the bubble. That’s when we need to make like we’re in a library, put up signs if necessary (sshhh!) and negotiate a little quiet time. 


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Picking out of a hat #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand

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PPicking out of a hat 

Let’s talk about names. There are many techniques writers use to find the perfect name for their characters. We often talk about them as though they’re our children, so it’s kind of funny to get caught researching baby names on google and having to talk family members down from a ledge! But seriously, name generators can be useful, as can reader polls. Then there are the times we sit with the characters awhile, get to know them better, and like a new born (kind of), the name we choose just seems to fit. 

Okay…moving on.  

Whether you write out a description, or just close your eyes and conjure an image in your head, a name often follows without too much effort. If you enjoy to wing it, then names often come naturally as the story begins to unfold. Other times you might have a name, along with characteristics circling around in your mind long before you put pen to paper or sit down at a computer.     

As with anything else when it comes to writing, there are occasions when the process breaks down. Times when we can’t think of a name, or the one we choose isn’t the right fit. It’s easy to get tied up in knots, especially with secondary characters or those who later become an integral part of the story. Attempts to change a name part way through a novel never really pan out, at least in my experience, because by then it almost feels like you’re stealing the character’s identity. Yes, I know how that sounds! 

Needless to say, we take the whole naming ceremony seriously! 

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Obsessive much? #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand

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OObsessive much? 

For writers, the editing process is tricky business. Once the first draft is finished, the revision stage begins and by the time it’s ready for another set of eyes, our own are crossed! 

We go through it so many times we start to obsess over the little things, like comma placement. The more we deliberate, the more we doubt ourselves and then we start to pepper them everywhere. Well, okay, not really, but I do have a tendency to get comma happy! 

It’s not surprising, either. As writers we have a tendency to over-analyse. I can’t send an email without checking it a dozen times, and don’t even get me started on text messages. I could write an essay on text speak and the use of acronyms, or worse abbreviations. 

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Night owl #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand

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NNight owl 

Today mainly relates to writing binges, and since my binges invariably happen during the night, I took a few liberties with the title. What can I say? I’m a night owl. Although it’s fair to say that many a creative soul would fall into the same category. Either that or an early bird – those up at the crack of dawn with a spring in their step and a muse on their back! In either case there are less people around to interrupt! 

I’m not a particularly disciplined writer. Perhaps if I followed a schedule, I’d get more done. But I’ve found that I’m more productive when I follow my inner clock, the rebellious gatekeeper controlling my creativity. It flows without restraint…perhaps because there aren’t any! 

Still, it’s not entirely healthy when I give in to the urge and binge on words throughout the night. It’s like a writing delirium, when I can’t stop because the ideas are coming so thick and fast I can’t keep up. It’s almost like something takes over. When the fog finally clears, and I’m hovering somewhere between elation and exhaustion, I’m surprised at the results on the page.  

writing binges

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My bad #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand

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MMy bad

Yesterday I talked about the difficulties writers face when it comes to letting go. Today is closely related to that, or it is in the sense of how we view our work. If we’re talking facial expressions, this time it’s less like we’re sucking on a lemon (cringe) and more like we’ve discovered that it’s impossible to make lemonade out of the drivel in front of us.

Whether that’s a confidence thing, a state of mind, a step out of our comfort zone, or we’ve just hit a rough patch, there are times we hate the work. And I’m talking serious dislike here, the kind of thing where you want to burn it, tear the pages into confetti, or jab at the delete button like you’re holding back aliens…(come on, you remember Space Invaders!)

That might seem a wee bit temperamental, but we are nothing if not passionate about our work. I’ve found taking a step back works for me, in fact, more often than not it’s how the writer’s block starts, so I don’t have a choice. Sleeping on it is always a good thing, getting out of the space so you don’t do something crazy like destroy it all (the work that is), or techniques to that effect.

destroy everything.gif

On the plus side, once you have your objectivity back, you can get stuck in and start those revisions. That’s when the fun begins because, even if the writing is bad, at least you have something to work with!

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Learning curve #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand


Learning curve

Life is one big learning curve. We never stop adapting, gaining knowledge or developing the way we do things. We accept that, and yet, we can’t help but cringe when we look back at our earlier work and catalogue all the mistakes we made.

Like an actor who can’t watch themselves on the big screen, writers are often wary about reading their own work because they will always find something to change. It’s one of the hardest things about letting a project go. At some point, you need to draw a line and deem the work ready. Then, when you look back, you need to somehow view the words through a different lens, one that doesn’t dwell on the everything you did wrong, but instead on the things you did right.

Easier said than done. We are, after all, our own worst critics. Then again, there are the times we look back at a body of work and realise it doesn’t suck. Perhaps we should hold on to those moments because, contrary to what some people believe, writers don’t have over-inflated egos.

We understand the importance of words, the power they hold, and besides wanting to connect with people through storytelling, we want to do justice to those stories and honour the characters we create.

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Killing time #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand

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KKilling time

As writers we’re well acquainted with procrastination. It’s an art we’ve cultivated, and cleverly honed. Sometimes, we even convince ourselves it’s part of the process. Of course, if we didn’t find opportunities to escape, we might go crazy with all the creative juice coursing through our veins. See – there’s always justification for losing hours watching Comic-Con panels (or is that just me?)

I’ve talked about the internet being our friend, and in this case, it lets us procrastinate to our hearts consent. Perhaps it indulges us a little too often, and there should be some sort of dalliance protocol – like parental control for writers.

If we manage to stay away from the web, from getting sucked into social media, or YouTube videos to feed our habit, it doesn’t end there. No, we realise that our books need to be reorganised, perhaps alphabetised by author instead of title, or sorted according to genre. I could go on. The list is endless, and whatever pressing project we discover to kill time, eventually we have to get back to work.


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Just wing it #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand

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JJust wing it

Winging it, going with the flow, letting the characters move us – that’s sometimes how it works. Granted, there are times we need to plan a little, some of us even have a comprehensive breakdown. Whichever side of the scale you predominantly belong, we fluctuate (or should that be pendulate?) in order to embrace our creative natures.

Writing is sometimes like getting behind the wheel of a car, without having a destination in mind. When driving is just for the fun of it, and the people you meet, the adventures you have along the way, all shape the experience and add to the thrill of the ride. At least that’s how it feels for me. It’s thrilling to look back and marvel at the miles (or words) that wove together. It makes you wonder who is really in the driver’s seat!

winging it.gif

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Inspiration strikes again #AtoZChallenge – Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’ – Quirks only a writer can understand

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IInspiration strikes again

I talked about writer’s block a few days ago, and what happens when inspiration dries up. Today, we’re at the other end of the spectrum. The occasions when ideas come so thick and fast, if we succumb to the mania we’d have twelve different projects on the go!

Then there are the times when inspiration strikes at the most inopportune moments; the shower, the car, at work, in the middle of the night, whilst operating heavy machinery…basically anytime that you can’t grab a pad and pen or access a keyboard.

It’s not surprising that some people consider us an odd bunch, what with scribbling frantically on a post-it sized napkin, pacing with a smartphone as we babble a mile a minute, or even staring into space – lost in another world.

typing really fast!

Personally, I’m grateful for my Google Home app. I can even access it in the car using the hands free feature. A few choice keywords, like ‘Hey, Google, I’m having another episode!” and voila – voice notes is activated. This followed by a reassuring, if slightly mechanical reply, “Let it out, Mel. I’ve got you covered.” Okay, so I’m overplaying the apps capabilities, but it’s not that much of a stretch.

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