Sorry Harry Potter, you are too dumb to do magic.

Picture of Daniel Radcliff

I am always looking for new books, movies and other media that might give me all the feelings I had when reading the Harry Potter series.

I was twelve when Harry first entered stage left and while my love of the boy wizard might have been heightened by hormones I believed it was true and like every other muggle I wanted to go to Hogwarts more than anything in the whole world. I waited in vain for my letter but I lived through my seven years with Harry, Ron and Hermione, thrilled by every danger and exhilarated by every victory.

In my heart I know those books hold a special place that cannot be recreated because they are unique but there are plenty of other authors doing amazing things in the fantasy genera that also deserve my attention.

hermione after the battle of hogwarts

Hermione having all the feelings about Harry Potter being too dumb.

 

While trawling the internet for reading recommendations I discovered a list of books on Bustle that promised to be ‘just as magical as Harry Potter. ‘ Moving faster then a Basilisk I set out to recapture the delight of magical worlds and promptly started reading The Magicians by Lev Grossman.

I read the book veraciously, devouring the intricate world building and magical  storytelling (excuse the pun), however as I moved further and further into the tale something niggled at the back of my mind. Annoying me like a thorn in the paw.

And then it hit me. Why was everyone at Brakebills (Grossman’s version of Hogwarts) genius level smart?

student levitating in the Syfy channel's The Magicians

All of your Craft and Charmed obsessions coming to life in the new Syfy channel’s version of The Magicians.

I mean Ron and Harry were not exactly breaking the bank with their IQ’s (Hermione left them in the dirt on that score multiple times) but their other qualities, bravery, resourcefulness, rule breaking, were always celebrated by their author.

Unfortunately it seems in Grossman’s world only the geniuses are capable of understanding or performing magic. I can only assume this is because learning the craft is complicated, tedious and really hard to do. Or so the author would have us believe. But why should that mean that only the ‘really smart’ kids and not the ‘super determined’ ones make it to magic school?

I’m not saying this is a ‘everyone should get a award for participation’ situation but certainly reading this book it annoyed me that only clever people and not everyone had a chance to learn magic. That is unless you get drafted by the bad guys, but that’s another story.

I like to think I’m not a total idiot but let’s be honest I’m not a spelling bee champion or science fair award winner. Reading this book and realising that everyone at the school is achingly clever, something that we are almost constantly remind of, made it feel almost impossible to believe that I could be one of the Brakebills crew, curbing my enjoyment of the story.

Anyway, I’m curious to know what you think? As an author is it more important to create a world where everyone has a shot of being the hero or is it more important that the world fits the characters and not the wants/desires of the reader?

Top 5 Writing Foods

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Being a writer is a funny business. Like most people we have our quirks, such as certain places we like to work, favorite pens, special pieces of writing music or motivational sayings posted on our walls.

What about when it comes to food?

Me, I’m an avid foodie. It’s more then just fuel, it’s brain food, an opportunity to understand flavors and to develop interesting prose for my books.

Are there foods that you love to have at hand while you write? Tear and share yours with us in the comments below.

So, without further ado, here are my top 5 writing foods.

 

Breakfast for dinner

Breakfast, scrambled eggs, susage

It’s always a winner (see what I did there?). Yep nothing is better than a plate of scrambled eggs, toast and bacon for your evening meal. Talk about turning your day upside down and having a little Mad Hatter style fun while you are at it. Just like your writing sometimes it is great to try new things and mix up your routine. But don’t take my word for it, why not try baked eggs, pancakes or cereal? Yum!

 

Chocolate

chocolate

Ahhh my sweet dark mistress. Once I met someone once who didn’t like chocolate. I spent 20 minuets trying to get to the bottom of their strange condition and we ended up in a Dr Phil confession session talking about all the foods we didn’t like. It made me realise that not everyone’s taste buds are geared in the same way and our characters are no different. Help your stand out of the crowd, give them likes and dislike and food quirks. Good characterization is all about what makes them individual and interesting.

 

Chips, pretzels & popcorn

Popcorn and pretzles

Savory or sweet this is a treat you cannot beat. (Geez, I need a snack.) This is perfect snack food for when your writer friends come over. Added bonus, it’s easy to shovel a handful of this delicious combo into your gob and then test how many words you can type per minuet or do a writing race with your friends.

 

Green Juice

green juice

I know what you are thinking. Ewww. But actually green juice is YUMMY! I find that sometimes I get into a writing funk. The words won’t flow, my characters are flat and nothing feels right. Well a quick boost of celery, mint, coriander, ginger, green apple and lime sets me straight again. I’m not sure if it is the boost in vitamins or just taking time to do something good for my body but a green hit is all I need to get back on the writing bandwagon.

 

Sandwiches

4th-Earl-of-SandwichIf you are tired of sandwiches you are tired of life.

Legend says that the Earl of Sandwich liked to play cards. In fact he like playing cards so much that he didn’t want to stop eat so he invented the modern sandwich as a convenient way to multitask. Perfect for the writer on the go and endless combinations at your finger tips, what more could you want?

 

Have you got the perfect writing food? Share it with us below in the comments.

Discovering Character Motivation

How you choose to overcome them is what(1)

Plot – the things that happen to your character.

Motivation – why/how they choose to deal with the roadblocks in front of them.

I wrote a book. One hundred thousand beautiful words made it into my manuscript and I can tell you I was SO PROUD when I finally wrote THE END!!! I started what is essentially a marathon and made it all the way to the finish line.

Ahh those heady days of success. I was so chuffed with my work I packaged it up, wrote a fabulous cover letter and sent it out to a selected group of agents and publishers whom I was sure would fall over themselves to sign me up for a three book deal immediately.

I bet you can guess what happened next.

Yep, I got rejected. Oh let me count the ways I got rejected.

Most of them were one line copy and pasted responses like, “this isn’t what we are currently looking for…”, “thanks but no thanks” and “was that you standing outside my window and going through my garbage?”

It was a pretty low point in my fledgling writing career and of course I reacted badly. I ranted about how the world was unfair and cruel. How could I have poured so much of myself into something and have it rejected? Clearly agents couldn’t see talent even it bit them on the ass.

It went on for a while folks. Not my proudest moment.

And then something interesting happened. I received another rejection but this time the kind agent who had taken the time to point out a few of the reasons why they liked my idea but couldn’t consider taking it on as it was. The major factor being that, in their point of view, the heroine lacked motivation.

At first I was appalled. How dare they suggest that I had left out such an important device from my masterpiece. But then I read it again. And you know what? I had my character roaming around the countryside, meeting interesting people, falling in love and solving problems but nowhere, from beginning to end, did it clearly show her motivation. There was no explanation for why she did the things she did or how those choices ultimately made her grow as a person through my rambling tale.

It was a tough lesson but one well learned.

In many ways motivation seems obvious. Surely it is implied. For example if you are writing a story about a character who is tying their shoe laces then they must be going for a walk right? Maybe. Or maybe not. What if your hero likes to wear shoes at all times because he stepped on snail when he was six and he now lives in constant fear of doing it again.

Just because a character is doing something does’t mean it is obvious to the reader why.

So here are my tips for helping you discover your character’s motivation.

Ask yourself why

This might seem like a strange idea to some people but if you are going to commit to the thousand hours it takes to write a book, not even edit it just write the thing, then why do you want to tell the story of this character? Why should your audience care what happens to them? Who is this person going to become because of their journey?

Create a status quo

Every good character needs to start somewhere. Harry Potter was stuck living in a cupboard, Elizabeth Bennett needed to find a husband and Katniss was born into a world that was unjust. As a reader we need to understand where the hero or heroine comes from before we give them the plot point that drives them to leave or change the world they have always known.

Interview your character

Whether it is over a cup of tea or in a dark room with a bright light shining in their eyes, imagine sitting across from your hero and asking him some questions about himself. Find out why he does things the way he does and what his reactions would be to a given situation.

Use a motivation generator

Springhol.net have this awesome Motivation Generator. It is a really fun way to spend 1o minuets and get some great ideas at the same time.

If you have any great ideas about discovering a characters motivation or anecdotes about your own writing share them in the comments below. 

Do authors need a blog?

blogging-encouragement

This is the question… Do authors need a blog?

The simple answer is no, of course not!

Phew. Okay, now you can get back to writing your creative masterpiece and ignore all the baloney about building a personal brand and having a community to sell that masterpiece to.

Okay, okay, so while you don’t need a blog it certainly helps when it comes to selling books (or laying down the path for people who like your writing and therefore might want to actually want to buy your books when you finally get them published).

I know that starting a blog can feel daunting but after all of my research and chatting to other budding/established authors I have to say there are some pretty compelling reasons to get on board with blogging.

It’s good practice – Rome wasn’t built in a day and everyone needs to be practice to be really good at their craft, even authors.

Blogs can give you a chance to hone your craft, test your material on readers before committing it to your book, find people who enjoy the same things as you and put your unique voice into the world.

The most important thing is keep it simple. Sign up to a free blogging site like WordPress or Blogger and talk about things you like, know or that happen around you. Explore your experience as a writer and share it with other people who are on the same path.

Give it a go. What’s the worst that can happen?

So what do you think? Tell me about your blog in the comments.

 

Keep-Calm-and-Blog-On

How to cover a live event with social media

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How to cover a live event with social media – Byron Bay Writers Festival: Gearing up for a Social Media Storm.

I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. Don’t let my bird-nest bad hair or manic over caffeinated lip twitch fool you, last week I had the pleasure of covering  social media for the Byron Bay Writers Festival AND IT WAS AMAZING!

I have been working in marketing and social media for many years but I have only ever covered one other live event. Unlike my normal routine of carefully selected or crafted pieces of content, the three days of the writers festival were bananas. A heady mix of rushing between different tents across the festival site, listening to and distilling lectures into 140 characters and taking so many  pictures. It really  was an incredible experience, one which I hope I get to relive again next year,  and I definitely learnt a lot. So below are a few things I picked up from my own experience that you might find useful for your next live event.

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My advice:

1. Know your goal.

Are you trying to increase followers, create hype or provide timely newsworthy content? Maybe all three.

Speak to your client and get a clear sense of what they want from your efforts. Find out how many different platforms shall you be working across, where do they want you to focus most of you attention and what are their KPIs.

You can spend all the time in the world creating brilliant content but if you are not delivering on the clients specific needs you are wasting everyone’s time.

2. Be prepared.

Lots of little things can get in the way of you providing consistent high quality coverage for your chosen event. Some things you might need to know are: will you have regular internet on site? Somewhere to charge your computer/device? Are you working outside? What is the weather forecast? Are you managing a team or working alone? Can you prepare content ahead of time?

Just by asking a few simple questions I was able to adequately prepare myself for the challenges I was going to face. I also found that by having a clear list of the events I absolutely needed to cover, all of my official accounts set up and logged in on the night before and a map of the event site I could pretty much handle anything. Plus it gave me three less things to worry about on the day!

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3. Take s survival kit.

I’m not much of a survivalist, you only have to watch two seconds of Doomsday Peepers to see that, but a survival kit could save your ass. Depending on your role you could be so busy rushing between different parts of the event that you might not have time to think, let alone eat or drink. Having a small bag on you with a few items can give you the chance to sit through a particularly long session or whole event without having to miss any important details.

My perfect survival kit includes:

Water bottle
Notepad
Pen
Device- computer/smart phone/ tablet (I used an iPad and it was the perfect size and weight for me.)
Apple (fruit not a computer)
Chocolate

4. Finally HAVE FUN!

Yes yes, the quaint reminder to enjoy yourself at the end of the post. Clichéd sure but still true. Regardless of whether you are being paid or volunteering your time this is your chance to kick some butt and show the world what you can do. And if you are volunteering this opportunity could be the boost you need to get a professional gig playing with the social media we all know and love.

Good luck and let’s us know your tips below in the comments.

5 things I learned from not having the internet

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So yesterday I finally had Internet connected to my new house after about six weeks of waiting. To be fair it didn’t take that long for them to actually connect my service, it was more of a cost of moving house /being-bothered-to-find-the-best-deal issue but living without internet has taught me some valuable lessons.

  1. There is nothing good on TV.  Don’t trouble yourself, keep streaming Game of Thrones or House of Cards, I checked and you’re not missing anything.
  2. I spend waaayy too much time using the internet. I had no idea I was an internet junky until they reconnected me. That first few moments of being plugged in was like eating a gigantic piece of German chocolate cake after starving myself for days, knowing all the while it was going straight to my thighs.
  3. I love my local Library. Books Yo! Gawd I read so much while I was ‘off the net’. I caught up on heaps of titles I had been meaning to read and I was so much more productive with the limited ‘online’ time I could beg, borrow and steal from the local council’s (strangely well protected) Wi-Fi.
  4. I want to try taking other things away to see how it changes the way I live. Electricity, water a toilet? I wonder if I would become a better person if I couldn’t see in the dark or wash myself?
  5. While I can live without the internet, I don’t want to. And that is not because I can catch up on my favourite show or sink hundreds of hours into useless browsing, I can, it is because I genially love being able to connect with people online, join in on discussions with peers or just chat to my mates. Yes I probably need to tone down my use a bit but by Budda, I LOVE the Internet.

Now I am off to watch Season 2 of Orange Is the New Black.

Plot, plot, plotting.

Whenever I am about to begin a new project the first thing I do is run naked and screaming around my house while thinking “WHY? WHY AM I DOING THIS AGAIN??!?!?!” When I’ve finally made myself horse and am lying on the floor panting, I decide to attack the bubbling new idea in my head with professional poise, I plot.

There are LOTS of methods when it comes to plotting and everyone has their own idea about how it should be done. The only thing I can suggest to you is to find a plotting method that works for you and run with it. I tend to follow two plotting conversations, the vomit draft and the three step program.

The vomit draft is when you lock yourself in a dark room and write everything that tumbles out of your head onto the page. This is great because it give a feeling of “doing’ something, getting words onto paper. The only problem is when you go back and read what you have written there might be lots of great ideas, but they are neither well developed or easy to rearrange into an actual book.

The three step method is when you answer three simple questions;

1. What is the motivation for my main charcter?

2. What does he/she need to achieve?

3. What happens if they don’t achieve it?

This is plotting at it’s most basic level, and of course you can make it much more complex but this is just a really simple way to get started on your story.

Plotting resources

  • If you haven’t heard of Chuck Wendig and his Terrible Minds blog then either you’re new, or you’ve been living under a rock for 20 years. Check out his stuff, there is some amazing advice if you are willing to read it all.
  • The Writers Workshop has a great article on plotting which is super handy, check it out here. Full of great tips this is a striped back version of Glen’s easy steps and it a bit quicker if you are in a rush to get started.