Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Take Action - An IWSG Post

Today is the first Wednesday of the month:  Insecure Writer's Support Group blog! The IWSG is a safe place for writers to express their fears and insecurities in a supportive environment. Join us at And don't forget to sign up for the IWSG Newsletter - it's filled with great advice written by writers for writers.  

This month's IWSG Reflective Question: 
 In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?

My five year plan began in January 2014, and the end goal is to make a living from my fiction writing by the time I’m 50 years old – the timing works out perfectly (with a couple of months leeway).

In order to achieve that goal, I haven’t set a rigid schedule but rather a plan of action – I am constantly asking myself, what do I need to do in order to achieve my goal?  Here are some of the things I’ve done so far:

  • Completed two reputable writing courses – met a fantastic tutor who is now  a life-long friend
  • Attended and completed a residential writing course at Chez Castillon in France
  • Created a writing blog
  • Read lots of books – fiction and non-fiction
  • Participated in online writing webinars,  with Joanna Penn, Anne Rainbow, Nick Stephenson, and others
  • Subscribed to writing magazines to keep up-to-date with what’s going on
  • Attended Chipping Norton Literary Festival 2014 – networking with other authors
  • Attended Frankfurt Book Fair 2015
  • Participated in the subscribers sections of the writing magazines – letters published
  • Written a crime novel – to be published 2017
  • Found a lovely editor for my novel – almost finished with the rewrites
  • Written short stories for competitions – some level of success
  • Written short stories for the UK women magazine market – nothing published yet
  • Self-published a book of short stories – July 2016 on Amazon
  • Made some amazing writing friends
  • Researched marketing and how to market a book effectively – this is an ongoing process

The journey is challenging – but anything worth having usually is. Not only am I learning a lot about the craft and self-publishing but also about the necessary emotional skills needed to succeed in the writing world (those dreaded rejections).

Do I believe I will achieve my goal? Yes, I do – if I continue to learn, progress and work hard. The great thing is, whenever my confidence falters, I can rely on my extended family and writing friends for encouragement – and I hope I inspire others in return.

Have you participated in webinars? Did you find them useful? Do you enjoy going to literary festivals/book fairs? How do you keep yourself up-to-date with what’s going on in the writing world?

Wishing you all a super festive month and happy writing!

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Exploring the Vulnerability of Characters

Thanks to Pixabay for the image!

Getting to know the characters we write is crucial in creating a credible and believable story We need well-rounded people whose voices are clear and consistent. There are heaps of ‘how to’ books out there – some more intellectual than others (I’ve probably read most of them over the years).

When formulating my characters, I start with the basics, which you can read about here from the Writers Workshop (a great ‘normal speak’ article) and then I like to go deeper and have some real fun. I love to explore their vulnerabilities. Here are 5 things I’ve done in the past to get a deeper understanding of the people in my stories.
  1. Drop them into a situation way out of their comfort zone and see how they cope – Eg: How would Jack Reacher cope as a trainee cook in Hell’s Kitchen with Gordon Ramsey?
  2. An interview with Oprah – what would be revealed? Would they jump on the couch like Tom Cruise or really open their hearts to reveal something that’s been hidden for decades.
  3. Put them face to face with one of their fears – a room filled with spiders, lock them in a confined space, make them look over the edge of the tallest building. Do they conquer their fear or wither into despair?
  4. Take away their vice: cigarettes, alcohol, chocolate, etc – what emotions do they experience? What do they do instead of smoking, drinking, eating? Do their lives become more fulfilled or do they give up and revert to old habits?
  5. Book them on a parabolic flight (Zero-G). Would they actually turn up at the airfield? How would they feel on the way up? Would they throw up on the way down? Would they want to do it again? What fun! (And because it’s make believe, it doesn’t cost a cent.)
There are so many ways to really get to know your characters. Without doing the basics before you start writing your novel, many inconsistencies will show up – and the editor (or worse, the reader) will pick up on every one of them. So my advice: do the legwork and build your characters so that they stand up, fully formed. But most importantly, never forget to have fun!

What do you do to get to know your characters?

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends!

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

It's All About the Hugs

My new daily mantra!

Previously on Burggraf’s Blog...

…feeling overwhelmed with my novel rewrites… where do I start?... how do I start?... why am I finding this so difficult… where’s my motivation?

It’s so easy to get bogged down with negative thinking, especially when a task seems too huge to tackle. Negative thinking hinders progress and creativity, and increases anxiety.

When I first got my novel back from my editor, I was so excited and loved reading all the comments, track changes, reports and analysis. She’d done a fab job. But once I realized the huge amount of work left to do, before I could showcase my work, the fear set in – I shrunk away from the task, making every excuse not to sit, focus and get the job done. I needed a nudge and so I reached out – in walks in my fabulous daughter with her incredible mind, excellent motivational skills and big loving hugs.

It didn’t take long to get my mojo back and be reminded of some of my own writerly rules:
1.      Don’t forget the fun factor and laugh (a lot).

2.      Set yourself achievable targets – you can always keep going beyond set target.

3.      Read – a lot (anything and everything).

4.      Listen to advice from the experts – editors, fellow authors, critique partners.

5.      Remember, writing is a long-term learning process – don’t expect to know everything, and allow yourself to make mistakes.

6.      Don’t be afraid to seek help/advice when needed – reach out to the writing community (they’re a lovely bunch!).

7.      Talk through ideas with someone you trust to be honest and helpful.

8.    Support other writers – offer to host blog posts, write reviews, visit and comment on other blogs/social media, join Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

9.     Stay sane! Don’t isolate yourself too often – get out and meet people and stay in touch with the world.

10.    Remind yourself regularly of your accomplishments and be proud of them.

Do you have your own writerly rules? Who do you turn to when you need a boost?

Happy writing!