Monday, 5 September 2016

Creative Round Table: an interview with Kristen A. Kieffer from She's Novel!

In this latest installment of the Creative Round Table, I talk to Kristen A. Kieffer from She's Novel about developing your creative focus, what it takes to write a spectacular novel, and why her dream book club involves a dollop of snark! // Something Delicious

Hello, beautiful writers!  Welcome to another installment of the Creative Round Table, a gathering of wisdom, advice, and inspirational stories from some amazing creative souls. Today, we're talking to Kristen Kieffer from She's Novel about developing your creative focus, what it takes to write a spectacular novel, and why her dream book club involves a dollop of snark!

Kristen: Victoria, thank you again for having me! It’s such a pleasure to drop by your blog. I can’t wait to get started!

Victoria: Thank you for coming, Kristen!  It's a delight to have you here for a scrumptious cup of tea and a chat about writing.

You’re one of my favourite examples of why you don’t need to complete a university degree to be fulfilled and successful.  How do you find your skills and habits as a self-directed learner play into your writing life?

Kristen: Oh, they’re so entwined! I was a hobby writer for many years, but when I decided I wanted a career in writing, I knew I needed to take the craft seriously. I began digging into every writing resource I could get my hands on–blogs, craft books, Youtube tutorials, you name it.

I spent so many hours learning about writing rules, tropes, structures, techniques, etc., as well as information on platform building and industry standards. Before long, I realized just how valuable a single, ultra-informative resource would be. I’ve been endeavoring to create such a resource ever since via my website,

Victoria: You’re a great lover of both reading and writing in the fantasy genre. Do you find fantasy moreso allows you to escape from the world, or to see the magic in everyday life?

Kristen: JRR Tolkien once said, “Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory.”

Writing and reading fantasy has always been an escape for me. Funny enough, I often prefer grimmer fantasies like A Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, but I don’t think escapism and idealism necessarily go hand in hand. I like characters with demons, real-life problems, and uphill battles.

There’s just something about a good cynical hero or anti-hero fighting back against a world that’s just all too big for them that creates the perfect mix of intrigue and entertainment. Oh, and bonus points if there’s a dragon. *wink*

Victoria: I'm alllll about the dragons! ;)

What is it about writing that brings you back to the page, day after day, month after month, year after year?

Kristen: The stories. I don’t consider myself so much a writer as I am a storyteller–a serial daydreamer, if you will. I’m that crazy person who talks to her characters and always seems to be staring off into space. I daydream constantly, and if I don’t provide an outlet for these stories via writing, my characters get rather mad at me.

Of course, we can’t have that, and so I write.

Victoria: What advice would you give to a writer who feels lost and unsure of their worth as a writer, who’s tempted to throw in the towel because they think they’re not good enough?

Kristen: You aren’t good enough. Harsh words, right? But hear me out.

Writing is much more of a skill than it is a talent, and skills take years to refine and master. Just like you can’t learn to play the piano or run a marathon in just a few months, you can’t learn to write a spectacular novel in that time frame either.

So yes. It may be true that you aren’t good enough skill-wise to write a publishable novel today, but let me ask you this: What’s stopping you from becoming good enough? What’s keeping you from working your tail feather off each and every day to improve your skills?

If we’re being honest, the answer is probably fear. And the only way to overcome fear is to face it, to diligently and passionately write no matter the doubts and struggles that crop up along the way. That determination is what makes you good enough and will transform you into the writer you want to be.

Victoria: Other than writing, what forms of creativity are present in your everyday life? What does creativity mean to you?

Kristen: I’m a firm believer that everyone is a creative and that creativity manifests itself in many different ways. Some creatives are imaginative, others resourceful. Others still are innovative or artistic. It’s finding the facet of creativity that resonates best with you that allows you to live a creative lifestyle.

When I was younger, I channeled some of my creativity into knitting, drawing, and other fun crafts, but my interest for them waned as I got older. For the most part, I now live out my creativity through writing, though I do also get a lot of enjoyment out of designing layouts, graphics, and printed materials for She’s Novel.

I’m also a low-key fan of interior design and fashion, but I’m afraid I don’t give them the time they deserve. Whoops!

Victoria: Do these different creative passions play well in the sandbox, or do they start to compete for time and attention?

Kristen: It’s funny that you ask this since I only really channel my creativity into a few key tasks, all of which relate to my career or where I’d like to take my career. I think one of the biggest reasons why I stopped crafting was because of how much time it took out of my schedule.

Running a small business is extremely time- and energy-consuming, so I have to be very protective of my schedule. If it doesn’t relate directly to She’s Novel or my works-in-progress, I normally don’t participate. I know this sounds a bit like I’m stifling my creativity, but it really doesn’t feel that way.

In fact, I feel more creatively focused and passionate now than I ever have, and I think that’s because I’m seeing how the results of my efforts are manifesting themselves in better and better finished products. It’s absolutely thrilling to feel like you’re working towards mastering a creative skill.

Victoria: On days where you're feeling drained of energy and inspiration, how do you deal with it?  Do you march yourself to the blank page regardless?  Do you settle in with a book and a cup of tea?

Kristen: A little bit of everything, actually! I do maintain a daily #WriteChain, so on days when I’m not feeling very inspired, I still make sure to write enough to reach my daily minimum (which is 200 words written or 10 minutes of work, if you’re interested).

Oftentimes, though, my drain is a result of being too sedentary. All of my work revolves around a screen, so often just taking a simple thirty- to sixty-minute walk or run is all the refreshment I need to get back in the creative groove.

But I’m certainly not invincible. I do have days where creative output is just not gonna happen, and when those days come, I do turn to books (and tea!) or movies (and more tea!). Anything with a great story is the perfect way for me to relax and recharge my creative batteries.

Victoria: In your recipe for living a creative life, what would be the top three ingredients?

Kristen: Ooh, how fun! Are chocolate, coffee, and tea acceptable answers? Haha!

But in all seriousness, exercise is definitely very important to my creative lifestyle. I highly recommend going for a walk or run–or even doing some yoga–if you’re looking to boost your creative energy.

I also find that listening to my creative peaks and working during those times is essential. I never bother writing during the afternoon because that’s when my energy is at its lowest. Instead I work during the evenings and at night, when my creativity is running high, or on occasion during the morning hours.

The third ingredient? I’d have to say daydreaming! Whenever I have a few empty moments–be it as I’m making breakfast or showering or falling off to sleep, etc.–I always let my mind wander. I try not to tell it where to go. Instead, I simply listen to where my thoughts take me.

Sometimes this results in the perfect answer to a plot hole I’ve been struggling with while other times I’m left with half-baked vision of what my dream home would look like if I were a bajillionaire. Not always so helpful, but I try to go with the flow. More often than not, I end up with something pretty awesome!

Victoria: Bonus Question: If you could host a book club with four of your favourite characters, who would they be and which book would you read first? What sort of discussion would ensue?

Kristen: Oh, this is such a great question–but tough, too! Okay, nerd alert. I think I would invite Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit, Tyrion Lannister from A Game of Thrones, Mark Watney from The Martian, and Po from Graceling. We would call ourselves the Snark Club, and we would read Twilight first.

Why? Well, I can only imagine how ridiculously glorious that conversation would be and–man, oh man–do I want in on that. Can I add Loki to the mix, too? It’d be sheer perfection!

Kristen Kieffer is a fantasy author and the creative writing coach behind She's Novel, where she helps writers craft novels that will endear readers, excite publishers, and launch their writing careers. When she's not writing, Kristen loves being a coffee snob, Tolkien nerd, and all-around crazy book lady. You can learn more about Kristen and check out her free resources for writers by clicking here.

To find out more about Kristen, be sure to find her on Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!

Monday, 29 August 2016

Discover Your Character's VIPs

This is the final post in a three-part series on creating a character from scratch. In this series, I cover one step per post, to give you a sense of why I think it’s important, how I figure it out for my own characters, and various tips and tricks to help you on your own way.

We’ve talked already about naming a character and honing in on their physicality: now it’s time to talk about who is most important to them.

Let’s call these people your character’s VIPs.

Discover Your Character's VIPs: find out who they are, why they're not who you think, and the impact they have on your character by clicking through to this post.  This is one step in the character creation process you definitely won't want to miss! // Something Delicious

When we’re considering the important people, the VIPs, in our characters’ lives, we tend to go for the obvious, the most beloved: the spouse, the best friend, the only child.

Those usually aren’t the only people who have an impact on our lives.

Consider the the talk show personality we’ll likely never meet but who inspires us nonetheless; the naturopath who helps us overhaul our eating habits and feel healthy for the first time; the teacher who encourages our creative pursuits when everyone else tells us to be sensible.

There’s likely more than one VIP in your character’s life. They may not have always been important, and maybe they won’t always rank so highly, but through the course of your story, these people could factor into things in any number of ways:

  • When something exciting happens to your character, he’ll probably be hyped up to share the news with at least one of them
  • When your character does something she’s ashamed of, these are the people she’s going to try and hide it from
  • When devastating news comes to light, he’ll break down with or need to lean on one of them

It’s important for us to know who the VIPs are to our characters because they have a huge impact on their lives, for better or worse. Story events don’t affect your character in a vacuum: there’s a ripple effect, ebbing out to the people most important to them.

Let’s look at a few examples ...

Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada.

Bellatrix Lestrange in Harry Potter.

Primrose Everdeen in The Hunger Games.

At first glance, these characters might seem to have nothing in common beyond their gender, but there is one thing that links them all: their influence on someone else’s life.

The Nightmare Boss

Miranda Priestly isn’t just the magazine editor from across the River Styx, she’s a huge factor in Andy’s life, partly because she takes up so much of her time and energy, and because of the change - some for the worse, some for the better - she invokes.

Working with Miranda pushes Andy to uncomfortable extremes. It also serves to push her out of her comfort zone, and by the end of the film, after Andy quits her job at Runway magazine, we see that she hasn’t come full circle. Instead, she’s taken some of her newfound confidence and rolled it into a version of herself that combines the best of the old and the new.

The Lunatic

In the Harry Potter series, Bellatrix Lestrange is a toxic influence to both Harry and Neville, having killed Sirius Black and tortured Neville’s parents to the point of insanity. She continues to wreak havoc throughout the series, going on to torture both Neville and Hermione, and murder her own cousin, Nymphadora Tonks.

Her coldhearted murder of his godfather spurs Harry, wrought with anguish and anger, to go after her and attempt torture, one of the three Unforgivable Curses. Though he fails to maintain it for long, it’s a dark moment in his story, a chink in his heroic persona, we wouldn’t have seen without Bellatrix.

The Younger Sister

Were it not for Primrose Everdeen’s name being drawn for the Hunger Games, the series wouldn’t have unfolded as it had. Katniss would never have volunteered to take her place, and in all likelihood the life-and-death games would carried on as normal for countless more years. Chances are Peeta would have perished in that first game, the Capitol would have continued to be in control, and there would have been no rallying point for the districts. Her bond to Primrose is also what draws her to Rue, leading to District 11’s loyalty to Katniss and all she comes to stand for.

See what I mean? It’s rare that characters are completely unaffected by anyone else, even if they claim to be a lone wolf.

People don’t have to be present to have an effect, either. Besides long distance relationships and deceased family, consider someone whose rapist is in jail but continues having nightmares about them; someone who was bullied in elementary school and still bears the mental scars; or someone who experienced a spiritual awakening after meeting with a medicine man in Bali.

When you’re creating a character, consider who has an effect on them. Don’t worry about whether it seems like a “legitimate” or “worthy” effect. No judgment allowed. If your character flinches or lights up at the mention of someone, that’s significant, and you’ll miss out on valuable story fodder if you ignore it.

What if they don't have anyone?

If your character doesn’t seem to have any VIPs, it might be that you need to dig a little deeper, or they could be telling the truth.

Maybe your character is reluctant to let people get close enough to be important.

Maybe the only important person in their life is a social worker, because they influence their home placements, or a caretaker who looks after their wife’s grave.

Maybe they’ve shut people out temporarily, or maybe it’s something they’ve struggled with their whole life.

Be open to the possibilities. Explore them. See where they take you.  At its core, this is exactly what character creation is: exploration.

Creating a character isn’t about moulding them to fit the story you have in mind.

Creating a character isn’t about forcing a round peg into a square hole.

Creating a character is about asking them to let you in and allowing them the freedom to be who they are.

If I had to pick a specific reason why I’m so obsessed with the process of character creation, it would be exactly that: it affords me the opportunity to get to know an incredibly diverse and fascinating bunch of people.

Yes, these people are in my mind, but as a wise man once said, “Why on earth should that mean that [they’re] not real?”

What to do now ...

1. Figure out who your character’s VIPs currently are.

Aim for three people, cap it at five. Though there may be more still to list, try not to get (too) lost in a sea of possibilities! You can always come back to this list and play with it some more at the end of your next draft or the next time you get stuck.

2. Write down the relationship between your character and each of their VIPs.

If it’s tense, write down how this tension manifests and what kicked off the tension in the first place. If it’s loving, figure out some of the ways they express this love. If it’s one-sided admiration, make sure you know where the admiration stems from and how the character on the other side of the equation feels about it (if they even know).

3. Expand on the impact these relationships have on your character.

How does your character act when they’re around each person? What sorts of things bring them to mind when they’re not in the vicinity? Do they make your character feel positive/negative/fearful/jubilant/crackers/bouncy? What decisions has your character made that have been influenced by the other’s opinion?

4. Consider whether any of these relationships conflict with each other.

Maybe your character desperately wants to impress her boss but it’s causing her to push her boyfriend way down the priority list. Maybe your character feels torn between divorcing parents. Maybe your character has to arbitrate disputes between his mother and his wife. Find the conflict and make a note of it.

That’s a lot of material, eh? Make sure you have a consistent place to keep it so you can find it at any time! You might want to check out this post to help you do that, or you could just use these lovely ol’ worksheets to keep it all straight.

Look at that … look at that! If you’ve worked through this series from beginning to end, you haven’t just created a character: you’ve created a character with a meaningful name, figured out what they look and sound like, and learned all about the people most important to them. That’s pretty darn impressive! Let’s have a cup of cocoa to celebrate, eh? Okay, and maybe a brownie, too.

With these pieces in place, you can carry on with character building for a whole new character until you’ve got the whole cast filled out, or you can jump right into plotting the story. At this point, you have more than enough material to get started.

If you want to carry on with character creation (and why wouldn’t you, right?), my free course, Create an Epic Character Foundation, will be right up your alley. It’s got everything you need to delve into the depths of your character’s life. After all, the juicier the character, the juicier the story possibilities!

For now, though, I’d like to thank you for joining me in this series. I loved writing it and hope it proves useful to you for oodles of characters to come! If you have a minute, I’d love to hear about the character you’ve created as you worked through these posts. Pop a note in the comments below and introduce us, ‘kay?

For the full set of worksheets I've created for this series, come right this way!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Bullet Journaling for Fiction Writers

Picture this: a magical notebook that collects your lists of character names, rough draft progress meters, and memorable feedback from readers all in one place. Imagine being able to organize it and add new things as you go, without needing to allocate perfectly spaced sections ahead of time. There’s even a special page that helps you find whatever you’re looking for in seconds.

This, my writerly friend, is the magic of a bullet journal.

Picture this: a magical notebook that collects your lists of character names, rough draft progress meters, and memorable feedback from readers all in one place. Imagine being able to organize it and add new things as you go, without needing to allocate perfectly spaced sections ahead of time. There’s even a special page that helps you find whatever you’re looking for in seconds.  Click the pin to read more about the magic of bullet journaling for writers! // Something Delicious

What is a bullet journal?

Bullet journals have been rapidly gaining in popularity over the last few years as a way to simplify your life and keep all your to-dos, lists, and future planning in one spot. Once you have the basics sorted, it’s incredibly easy to customize to your tastes. Pinterest and YouTube abound with suggestions and tutorials to help you make it your own.

If you haven’t encountered bullet journaling before, start with these articles to give you a sense of the basics. After that, make sure to return here to discover how you can use this magical notebook when you’re writing a novel!

Getting Started With Bullet Journaling

An In-Depth Guide to Bullet Journaling, from GenTwenty: A basic overview by yours truly of bullet journaling.

Thorough Guide to the Bullet Journal System, from Tiny Ray of Sunshine: This is incredibly comprehensive and helpful, but if it starts to feel overwhelming, scroll down to the bottom of her post where Kim has an infographic summarizing her main points!

Bullet Journal - Daily Planning, a video from Boho Berry: I’ve watched a lot of videos and read a lot of posts about daily planning in bullet journals, but this one still tops my list as one of the most helpful resources out there, especially for something you’ll be doing a lot.

Examples of Bullet Journaling

How to Bullet Journal and Braindump, from Emily Scott: This is a great example of how you can incorporate freewriting and journaling along with to-do lists and scheduling.

A Peek Inside My Bullet Journal, from Sublime Reflection: As well as having some good starting pointers for newbies to bullet journaling, Kimberly has helpfully included photos of her own bullet journal.

Bullet Journal Flip Through, a video from Boho Berry: When I first started bullet journaling, I found it a lot easier to grasp the concept when I could actually see examples on video and watch people flip through the pages. It gives you a better idea of how everything works together. This video is well worth the 30-minute watch!

There are a few other things to wrap your brain around to make your bullet journaling experience as smooth as possible, like migration and threading. If this is all new to you, do yourself a favour and come back to those after you’ve read the rest of this post and decided if bullet journaling seems like a good fit. That way you’ll better be able to visualize how these concepts work.

What you need to start your bullet journal

A blank notebook. Some people love the Leuchtturm1917, which is the original Bullet Journal. Others, like myself, love a good ol’ Moleskine notebook. My personal favourite is 5 x 8.25 inches with the dot grid*. It’s light, holds up well to repeated use, has heavier-than-average paper, and it’s preeeetty. Honestly, though, you can use just about any notebook for this, especially if you’re just starting out and aren’t sure whether bullet journalling is right for you.

( * This is an affiliate link, which means that if you fall in love with the Moleskine notebook on that page and decide to purchase it, I may receive a small fee in return.  This will not at all affect the price you pay, and I will never recommend something I don't absolutely love! :) )

A pen. Pick one that doesn’t bleed too much, so you can use both sides of the page without issue. I’m currently using the same pens I use for just about everything (BIC Ultra Round Stic Grip) because they’re super comfy and work well. Kara (Boho Berry) has some recommendations on this front, too.

Washi tape and/or coloured pencils. Optional, but fun for decorating your pages with ease and creating colour-coded charts!

What if I already have a bullet journal?

If you already have a bullet journal, the choice is yours as to whether you use the same notebook for your writing tidbits or keep them separate. Honestly, though, at the rate mine fills up, I’d be starting new notebooks all the time if I kept my writing-related notes in my regular bullet journal. Unless you just write every once in a while, chances are you’ll be happier having a dedicated bullet journal for your writing.

Can I use one bullet journal for all my writing projects?

Of course! That being said, if you’re writing an epic fantasy novel with characters and settings and ideas coming out the wazoo, you might want to give that one a journal of its very own. Totally your call. If you’re not sure, start with one and see how it goes!

Would a bullet journal for writing still have a spot for daily and monthly planning? A key? An index?

Short answer: Yes!

Long answer: Let’s take this one by one …

Daily Planning

This isn’t a must-have, especially if you’re only working on one project and/or not on a daily basis. You could keep a weekly planner, instead. Whether you choose to jot down tasks on a daily or weekly basis, though, you could include things like:

  • how many words you plan to write
  • a research question to follow up on and how you’ll be doing that
  • a writing date at Starbucks with a friend
  • finishing an assignment from the writing class you’re taking
  • reading a how-to book on amping up your writing skills

Monthly Planning

If you’ve watched my Vive la Writing! webinar or enrolled in my course, you’ll know I have a thing for planning out writing sessions in advance, and developed a whole customizable calendar system around that idea. You could totally transfer that system to your bullet journal!

Already have standing writing dates scheduled into your planner? You could skip this step, then, or you could start keeping them in your bullet journal instead. There’s something about giving your writing dates their own calendar that makes them feel like more of a priority. It gives you more room to jot down details about what you’ll be doing during those writing sessions, too, like "incorporate more sensory details into Chapter 5."

A Key

Having a key for your bullet journal will help you differentiate at a glance between things that need doing, to-dos that are half-finished, things you want to remember or look up, and anything else you happen to put in your bullet journal. I keep mine on a sticky note inside the front cover; that way, if I want to change the symbols around at some point, I can do that without having to cross out the old ones.

Here are some quick examples of a bullet journal key:

Example 1
Example 2

If you have multiple works-in-progress, you could even assign a symbol to each one!

Why do this?

Because, on a day when you’re working on all of them, it saves you having to write “write 1,000 words of He Left in the Night” and “edit chapter 4 of Loose Sails.” It’s not a big deal, when all’s said and done, and you could just use initials instead, but using a symbol makes meanings easy to discern at a glance.

Alternatively, you could colour-code your symbols for each WIP. I’m a big fan of colour-coding things … can you tell?

An Index

I’m going to put on my Bossy Pants here and insist that, even if you don’t have the last three things, you HAVE to have a bullet journal index. Without that, you just have a notebook with a jumble of notes. Same old, same old.

Create an index, update it whenever you add something new or continue a collection on a different page, and you’ll make things so much easier for yourself in the future.

What’s a collection?

Pretty much everything in a bullet journal is a collection, strictly speaking, even your daily planning pages. However, my personal definition of a collection is that it’s a convenient way to gather ideas, notes, and/or lists on specific topics in one spot. In my everyday bullet journal, I have collections for everything from soon-to-be-released movies on my radar to sewing tips I glean from YouTube videos.

The best thing about collections is you don’t have to allocate a certain number of pages for them from the get-go, so they can be as lengthy or petite as you need them to be! Once you have one page filled up, simply flip to the next blank page, whether that’s right after or thirty pages later, and carry on with your collection. Just make sure to add it to your index, while you’re at it. You might also want to consider threading, a quick extra step that makes your collections even easier to navigate.

What collections could I create for a writing bullet journal?

Excellent question!

For specific works-in-progress, I’d include collections for:

  • Main characters (start by giving them each their own collection page): include their name, background, important relationships, and any other pertinent information, such as their motivation and how they evolve as the story unfolds
  • Supporting characters: you could have these all in the same collection or give them each their own collection page, depending on how much detail you have for them
  • Master list of characters: this could just be their names, or you could also include when they make their first appearance
  • Master list of settings
  • Scene ideas
  • Dialogue ideas
  • Research questions
  • Books, websites, and other resources for future research
  • Title ideas
  • Progress meters for word count/chapter count, for rough drafts and/or revisions
  • Chapter-by-chapter charts to show how often you use different settings or weather patterns

As far as general writing collections, I’d go for:

  • Favourite writing prompts, so you’re never without inspiration and writer’s block busters
  • Plot bunnies that won’t leave you alone
  • How-to books to read about writing

Don’t forget about the “peripherally related to writing” collections:

  • Literary agents to query
  • Publishing houses to query
  • Other writing or publishing professionals (editors, coaches, proofreaders, publicists, cover designers)
  • Submissions chart
  • Blog tour stops
  • Chart to track sales
  • Happy Moments log (positive snippets from reviews, fan letters, beta readers, Twitter friends)
  • Promotion ideas

If you want to incorporate these into your bullet journal but feel a wee bit overwhelmed at the prospect, have no fear!  I've created a checklist so you can start ticking them off one by one.

When wouldn’t you use a bullet journal for novel writing?

For me, having a bullet journal, especially for my writing, is about having all the information I need at my fingertips, without having to search through a thousand bits and pieces of paper and text messages and emails and computer files to get it. It’s not a space for scene drafts, heavy brainstorming sessions, and things that go all over the map.

That being said, this is your bullet journal. If you want to use it for brainstorming and drafting your novel, go for it! Just remember it’ll fill up a lot faster if you do this. Finding what you need when you need it should still be just as simple, so long as you’re keeping up with your index and numbering those pages.

(Remember that post I mentioned earlier, How to Bullet Journal and Braindump? It’s a great example of an approach that differs from mine in this regard!)

What about your research?

This really depends how extensive your research will be. If you’ll only have a few pages worth, it could totally go in the same bullet journal as all your other writing material. Otherwise, you’ll likely want to keep it separate; just keep track in your bullet journal of what research you’ve done and what still needs doing, and keep the piles of paper and sticky notes and annotations elsewhere.

What do you do when your bullet journal is full?

Start a new one and immediately set up: (1) the index, and (2) any ongoing collections.

Not sure which collections are ongoing? Ask yourself if you’ll be adding to it anytime soon. If your research is done for your current project, you don’t need a collection for research just yet. Once you do, you can add one!

After you’ve got the index and your collections sorted, you can set up your first planning pages (daily, weekly, monthly) if these are a regular part of your bullet journaling process.

When all's said and done ...

It took me a few months to really sink into bullet journaling, but now I couldn't live without it.  I feel calmer and my productivity has soared.  Writing time is precious, and now I don't have to waste it rummaging through my room for scraps of paper because I have one spot for All the Notes.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, I completely understand.  My best advice is to snag a notebook - any notebook, it doesn't have to be THE notebook - even if it's halfway full already, and just give this a try.  Devote twenty pages to this newfangled bullet journaling idea and see how it goes.

What do you think?  Will you give bullet journaling a try for your writing bits and bobs?  If you already are, I'd love to hear how you're making it work for you: the collections you've added, the symbols you're using, what you include and what you leave out.

Whether you're a bullet journaling veteran or just dipping your toes in the water, leave a comment below!  I'd love to hear what your plans are.

Do you want a snazzy checklist to help you incorporate these collections into your own bullet journal?  I've got you covered!  Just click here to snag the checklist for your very own.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Creative Round Table: an interview with Faye Kirwin from Writerology!

Welcome to another installment of the Creative Round Table, a gathering of wisdom, advice, and inspirational stories from some amazing creative souls. Today, we're talking to Faye Kirwin from Writerology about the impact of psychology on character development, reconnecting with your creative passions, and a healthy dose of encouragement!  Click the pin to read this inspiring interview.

Hello, beautiful writers!  Welcome to another installment of the Creative Round Table, a gathering of wisdom, advice, and inspirational stories from some amazing creative souls. Today, we're talking to Faye Kirwin from Writerology about the impact of psychology on character development, reconnecting with your creative passions, and a healthy dose of encouragement!

Victoria: Your love of digging into the inner workings of your characters led you to study psychology at university.  Did your perspective on character development change throughout your years at university and, if so, how?

Faye: Oh, most definitely. If there’s one thing studying psychology made me appreciate, it’s how complex and nuanced the human mind is. The more I learnt about personality, about social influence, about relationships and discourse and mental health, the more I realised that I only understood a fraction of who my characters were. If I wanted them to reflect all the different aspects that make up a real person, I needed to go deeper and get to grips with parts of their psyches that I’d never heard mentioned by other writers before—parts like locus of control and attachment styles and cognitive biases. With each year that passed, I was able to build more and more layers into my characters, discovering new ways for them to grow and new twists to add to their journeys.

Victoria: What's the most valuable thing your studies in psychology have shown you about creativity?

Faye: That creativity isn’t something some people are born with and some people aren’t. Anyone can be creative and anyone can become more creative, which I think is very encouraging for all of us, whatever our calling.

Developing your mental flexibility can lead to so many possibilities: more imaginative solutions, a more persistent and energetic work style, an increased receptivity to inspiration, and that’s to name just a few!

Trying something that requires you to adopt a different mindset to normal and forces you to consider things from a different perspective is a great way to exercise those creative muscles. For me, that was writing 140-character microfiction. Telling a story in 2-3 lines, rather than over a whole novel, pushed me out of my comfort zone and tightened my storytelling. Whatever your passion, turn your expectations on their head and try doing things a different way. It really can expand the mind.

Victoria: Do you ever find yourself so entrenched in character development that it's hard to move on to the actual drafting process?  How do you recognize the signs, and what would you do in a case like this?

Faye: This was such a problem for me a few years ago. I’d spend more time developing characters than writing about them and, when I finally did start writing, they changed so much over the first draft that they were almost unrecognisable. All that time spent on character development down the drain.

While it was frustrating, I learnt an important lesson from all that: having a solid idea of who your characters are before you start the story is valuable, but things will change as you write. The more you discover about the plot and the characters, the more your initial beliefs about them change, so be flexible with your character development and don’t spend more than a few weeks on it before you start writing. Remember: you can always revisit those character notes later, when you have a better idea of who your cast are.

Victoria: What's the most telling question you can ask a character who's only just begun to make themselves known to you?

Faye: ‘Is the glass half empty or is it half full?’

The first thing I try to get a feel of when writing a character is their worldview. Is their perception of the world around them tinted by optimism or pessimism? Both optimists and pessimists see the same glass, but their interpretation of it differs. That raises an important point for writers: your characters’ narratives are not objective. They’re subjective, tinted by their individual worldviews, coloured by their personalities, thought patterns and experiences.

No two people (or characters) see the world in the same way, and something as simple as an optimistic or pessimistic streak can have a significant impact on that. If you think about it that way, how your character interprets the glass half empty or half full question can be very telling.

Victoria: Other than writing, what forms of creativity are present in your everyday life?

Faye: I spend most of my time writing and reading, but when I need a break from the written word, I like to break out my sketchbook and draw. Translating what I see in my mind on to the page in a way that doesn’t involve words is a fun way to shake things up and try something new. And, as an added bonus, it gives me a break from the computer screen (which I should probably do more often).

Victoria: Do these different creative passions play well in the sandbox, or do they start to compete for time and attention?

Faye: I’ve always loved how writing and drawing fit together like pieces of a puzzle. Both involve telling stories, but where writing does that with words, over a certain number of pages, drawing does it in a single image. When I’m worn out by working on a narrative that stretches across thousands of words, drawing lets me focus on that one frozen moment of a story.

Balancing the two isn’t that easy for me, though. Drawing takes me a lot longer than writing, and with writing being my greatest passion, I’ll often feel guilty for spending time with my sketchpad. In the future, I’d love to balance the two more, so that I can give both sides of my storytelling muse the attention they deserve.

Victoria: On days where you're feeling drained of energy and inspiration, how do you deal with it?  Do you march yourself to the blank page regardless?  Do you settle in with a book and a cup of tea?

Faye: I’m a huge proponent of writing regularly—every day, if possible—and feeling drained of energy and inspiration are some of the greatest obstacles to doing that. It’s not easy, but I’ve researched and experimented over the years and found specific triggers that motivate and energise me enough to get the words down, each day, every day.

A big one for me is reminding myself why I write and what I love about my current project. It’s easy to lose sight of that when I’m tired or uninspired, but remembering what I love most about it (and looking back at the encouragement I’ve received from other writers) really helps me to get started. Once I’m past the first few warm-up paragraphs, I’m off and away.

I also make time each day to consume fiction of one kind or another. Losing myself in a story motivates me to tell my own and teaches me how to do it. In the words of Stephen King, “If you don't have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

Oh, and tea helps too. Lots of it.

Victoria: In your recipe for living a creative life, what would be the top three ingredients?

Faye: Ingredient 1: Make time for what you love.

This one, to me, is the most crucial of all. Whatever your passion, make time for it every day, even if it’s only five minutes. It’s incredible how much progress you can make when you change your mentality from ‘I need to do lots for it to be worth it’ to ‘if I do a little and often, it all adds up’.

Ingredient 2: Keep why you do what you do close to your heart.

In the midst of your creative projects, with obstacles looming and your resolve to continue sorely tested, it can be all too easy to forget why you started in the first place. Don’t let that happen. Remember your Why. Why do you do what you do? Why do you love it? Why do you keep coming back to it? Why is it part of who you are?

Write those reasons down, put them somewhere visible, and when you feel lost in self-doubt or sapped of your will to create, look at them again. Remind yourself why you do what you do.

Ingredient 3: Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for pursuing your passions.

This can be a killer for us creatives. With friends, family, work and life all jockeying for our attention, putting time aside for creative pursuits can make us feel horribly guilty. But that’s the wrong way to look at it.

Here’s how I see it. You can make the world a better place by embracing your creativity. Whether you share what you’ve created with others or not, by doing something that makes you happy, you create ripples. Those ripples spread outwards, changing the lives of those they touch.

Do what you love boldly and unapologetically, and please don’t ever feel guilty about making time for your creative side. It’s part of who you are, an integral part of your soul, and the world is a better place because of it. So here’s a request from me: keep nurturing that creative spark, okay?

Victoria: Bonus Question: If the Doctor wandered into the pages of your latest work-in-progress, who would he choose as a companion and what would their first reaction be upon stepping inside the TARDIS?

Faye: If the TARDIS materialised within the pages of Her Clockwork Heart, my protagonist, Pippa Adeney, would definitely be the first knocking on the door. Pippa’s a mechanician who loves nothing more than travelling the world and building clockwork counterparts to the incredible things she sees. And if she stepped inside the TARDIS? I think her first response would be to ask how it works. Then she’d try to build one herself. (Good luck with that, Pippa.)

Faye Kirwin is a writer with a passion for words, minds and tea. She blogs over at Writerology, where she applies the science of psychology to the art of storytelling and teaches authors how to make writing a part of their everyday lives. When she’s not blogging or running the Writember Workshop, she writes fiction chock-full of magic, clockwork and tea. (Mm, tea.)

To find out more about Faye, be sure to find her on Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter!