Wednesday 3 December 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group - December 2014

Anna Nordeman

IWSG - Insecure Writer's Support Group for December 2014

This is my twentieth post for IWSG.

I am starting to write this ahead of time already on 23rd November and pre-scheduling it. As November is drawing to a close, I have two main topics: a short review of yet another helpful book for wannabee writers, Les Edgerton's, Hooked, write fiction that grabs readers at page one and never lets them go, and I would like to share a few words about how I fared with NaNoWriMo this year.

First, Hooked.  With a title like that, it does make you curious. This is all about hooking in readers like fish! The bait is how your book begins. Or as Les Edgerton puts it: 'The road to rejection is paved with bad beginnings'.

Les has included many catchy beginnings to novels and stories to illustrate what he means about writing a good 'hook'. For example:

My uncle Roland Zerbs lives in LaPorte, Missouri, where I grew up. He's known locally as the Fish Man.
From Sherwood Kiraly's Diminished Capacity

When Edward Carney said good-bye to his wife, Percey, he never thought it would be the last time he'd see her.
From Jeffery Deaver's The Coffin Dancer

My mother died at the moment I was born, and so far my whole life there was nothing standing between me and eternity; at my back was always a bleak, black wind.
From Jamaica Kincaid's 'Xuela'

He was so mean that wherever he was standing became the bad part of town. From Les Edgerton's own story, 'The Bad Part of Town'

Another problem that Les Edgerton addresses is, after you have written your amazing opening line, what do you do with back-story, flashbacks and descriptions? Story structures aren't what they used to be.

There is also a chapter with a list of no-nos for beginning writers to avoid: Never open a story with a dream, a buzzing alarm clock or with dialogue.

Les Edgerton has his own webpage:


And now to an update on my NaNoWritMo-participation:

This is what my NaNo-November looked like: I think I am beginning to really hate NaNo.

I only reached 12222 words.

I got off to a late start, but did well a few days in the middle of the month and then realised that I could never make it in time, and lost interest in even trying, around Thursday 20th November.

What happened? I did have an outline or scene-cards, but there were still a lot of holes in the plot. I needed time to think it through and not just write gibberish to get the word count up, only to have to cut it away later on. 

I hate NaNo. I hate NaNo. I hate NaNo.

No. NaNo. It's Not fun to Not win NaNo. 

I don't care what anyone writes in those pep-talk-NaNo-letters. I think trying to write your novel for NaNo can even damage it. You can loose interest in your ideas because of the time press. It can kill your imagination. It can drench your flame of burning interest. It can make you write worse than if you took it at a calmer pace.

I still think it is better (at least better for me) to write at a slower pace and know that what I write means something to the whole of the novel. There is a great risk that you just 'stuff' your text with silly writing that you know in your heart does not lend anything to the story. 

And having to edit unnecessarily, afterwards, is just giving yourself extra work. All that time spent on pulling the text apart and in order to start over. 

Luckily, I wrote my story in little chunks of scenes that can be easily moved around in another order, if I decide that the plot needs that. (Thank you, Roz Morris, for that!)

All of this said, I still don't want NaNo to cease to exist. NaNo can help you to get started. I still think that it is basically a good challenge, and a friendly and supportive writing-community, that puts the focus on the importance of writing. It does teach you about using your time wisely. The set up and the little widgets all show you that each day's work can bring you closer to your goal. It encourages good work habits. A writer needs to write, every day.

I am sure that NaNo could work well for some young people or others who have more free time, who don't have to think about looking for work or have two children to raise alone or a troll for an ex-husband who makes life sour on a regular basis. 

I think the little calender shown above could be a good tool for year-round use. I wish I could use the counter over a longer period of time. It might help me find a working stride.  (Or I can just write down the word count every day on PAPER! I used to do that when I worked with commercial art.)

I think it is important to learn how to get the work done, and to be able to calculate how much time you need to write a longer text.

I think it is easier to calculate translation work than it is original writings. I have heard lectures of translators talking about how they calculate their work, by word count or pages. And my translation work does go faster. I don't have to worry about story structure, just the tone of the text and the meaning of words.

Since August I have been working on a translation and working well. I was almost halfway through my novel when NaNo started. But I didn't think that I could work on another author's novel in translation for NaNo. Maybe I could have.

For now, I've put my own original novel aside, and have returned to my translation work. (I have translated 20 chapters of an other author during the period, September-October and a bit into November. So I have indeed been writing and thinking about the use of words during this time.)

I'm glad that I discovered Roz Morris' Nail-Your-Novel-books last year. Thanks to Roz, I think I will be able to rescue my NaNo-novel when I get back to it (this coming summer).

If you want to read more about Roz Morris' Nail-Your-Novel how-to-books please click here.

My warmest congratulations to yoghurtelf (Trisha F. of WORD + STUFF) for winning. Shes been at it for 12 years, so she must know how to do it.

Best wishes,

First Commenter:

 Alex J. Cavanaugh

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group for 5th November 2014

Anna Nordeman

IWSG - Insecure Writer's Support Group for November 2014

This is my ninteenth post for IWSG. Please read my 'news blurbs' after my main topic:
My main topic:

As I have mentioned earlier, I am so pleased to have discovered Roz Morris' how-to-write books (the Nail Your Novel-series), but am still open to reading other advice-for-writers-books.

And when I noticed words of praise for Roz Morris' book by author Lisa Cron, I figured if she likes Roz Morris' ideas, maybe she has some good ideas of her own. My instincts proved to be right. I have almost finished reading Lisa Cron's how-to-write book, Wired for Story, The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence. It is a joy to read.

It sticks holes in many myths about writing and basically explains why stories are essential to our survival as human beings. Telling stories is one of the things that makes us different from other species; it makes us human, even more than our opposing thumbs. Why? Because our brains are 'wired' for story, we think better in terms of story; we need to have an emotional connection when learning; we need to see a pattern and to follow a logical cause-and-effect reasoning. Stories make us sit up and pay attention to important information that could save our lives. Good stories help us to think about how we could solve problems in the future, by letting us see examples of what can go wrong for other people -- without us being in any real danger ourselves.

According to Lisa Cron, if you want to be a successful author (whose work people actually read), telling a good story is more important than writing well. Many books to help author-wannabees, concentrate on grammar usage and correct metaphors, but don't explain what a good story really is. 

A key phrase in Lisa Cron's book is "information on a need-to-know basis". Our brains cannot retain more information than just four thoughts at a time. You shouldn't pack your novel with a lot of unnecessary information that takes the reader away from the main story and does not have anything to do with the protagonist or the problems that the protagonist must deal with or solve. Lisa Cron uses brain research and examples from literature and films to helps us understand how to tell a good story. (See pages 220ff.)

Lisa Cron's book, Wired for Story, lives up to its message. It is thought-provoking as well as thoroughly entertaining and fun to read; a non-fiction work that is a page-turner.

Examples of new light on old myths about writing from Lisa Cron's book:

MYTH: "Show, Don't Tell" is Literal --
Don't tell Me John is Sad, Show Him Crying
REALITY: "Show, Don't Tell" is Figurative --
Don't Tell Me John is Sad, Show Me Why He's Sad


MYTH: Writers Are Rebels Who Were Born to Break the Rules
REALITY: Successful Writers Follow the Damn Rules

The End

News blurbs:

*  November means NaNoWriMo for many of us writer-wannabees. Last year (2013), I did not even attempt to use NaNoWriMo to write a novel. This spring I started writing notes on index cards using Roz Morris' suggested methods (Read about Roz' how-to write-books here.) This year, thanks to Roz, I do have an outline to follow, so my chances are slightly better. But I still have the problem of looking for a part-time job and listing new items for my shops. Plus two school-aged children to rear. If time could be purchased in a jar, I would probably be cuing up to the counter to buy it.

My son, Erik, Maria (friend) & my daughter, Elisabet


*  Halloween came and went in a swoosh. If you are curious about how my children, Erik and Elisabet (12 and 10 years of age) celebrated this curiously foreign holiday here in Sweden, take a look at the photos here. We had everything but candy-corn, which I miss, and I didn't bother with a pumpkin-jack-o-lantern, even though tiny pumpkins are sold here too.

Daughter and Father

*  November first was my dear sweet father's birthday. He would have been 97 years old. I think of him often, especially when I read and write. I wish that I could talk to him about the books I read or the films that I see. He might have liked the Downton Abbey-series, that I only recently discovered on Since he was born in 1917, it covers a period (1912 to 1924) that he loved. Daddy was very much interested in WWI and its impact upon society; how it changed the way people lived and thought. 
Daddy loved England. He was sent there when he was drafted into the US army during WWII. He was impressed with land itself, and the ordinary English people. He loved the culture and traditions. And he was seeing them at a time when they were perhaps not at their best. Or maybe they were. Maybe World War II brought out the best in them, or at least in some of them. Of all of the organisations to help soldiers, a long way from home, he thought that the Salvation Army in England did the best job. This is my little tribute to my father's memory and to all of you wonderful people in the UK.

Best wishes,

First Commenter:
Book Lover

Friday 31 October 2014

WEP-Challenge for 31st October 2014 - Ghost Story

Welcome to WEP's Challenge for 29th-31st October, Ghost Story.

For some reason, October's spooky challenge is usually the high point of our writing year. Halloween is the one night of the year when ghost stories are expected - within the English-speaking world.  Here in Sweden, Halloween is a newly introduced way of celebrating a holiday that used to only consist of lighting candles on graves.


I tried writing a ghost story, but my heart was just not in it. What I am offering are some photos documenting my daughter, Elisabet, and her schoolmate, Maria, together with my son, Erik, dressing up and going around our neighbourhood 'trick-or-treating'.

Elisabet and Matilda, the cat, before Halloween make-up.

When Elisabet told me that they were going to do this alone, without an accompanying adult, I said no. They are only ten years old and these are apartment buildings, in the middle of city, not a suburban development or farms, where everyone knows everyone.

For two days, I helped Elisabet draw pumpkins, print them out and hand-colour them to make 'Happy Halloween' - cards. (One of the reasons why my ghost-story never was finished. Oh well. Probably no great loss.)

Notice the black nail polish om Elisabet's fingers. I applied it.


We went to the toy store to buy a new Halloween costume, black garb including a witch's hat with attached green-coloured wig.

Maria and Elisabet apply make-up for their scarey roles.


Erik as the Grim Reaper!

Maria in the middle has chosen to be a vampire.

Halloween make up inspired by the green-faced wicked witch of the west from the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz. Many of you may remember this film. I do. This is Margaret Hamilton, who played the double role of Miss Almira Gulch / The Wicked Witch of the West. (I'm looking for a photo of Margaret Hamilton with green face makeup, but can't find any.)
Click on image to get to Wikipedia

Maria threatens to drink my blood. Elisabet casts a spell.
Click on image to get to Amazon UK

They are off, and the weather has been unusually mild.

My trio marching towards their first victims.

Surprisingly, they were given quite a lot of candy! I expected them to come home empty-handed, as this is too new of a practice. It is not a Swedish tradition, and I have mixed feelings about its introduction. But since I took a course in ethology in my youth, I understand that there is always a reason for why people start celebrating holidays.  My immediate guess is that this is a tradition that appeals to the 'tweens', or 'pre-teens', eight to twelve year-olds, just my children's age right now. 

There is a Swedish begger-tradition, with the children dressing up as Easter-witches with broomsticks and copper-kettles, and go around giving neighbours handmade cards with 'Glad Påsk!' (Happy Easter!) on them. But this is a tradition for small children, and mother usually tags along, at a distance if nothing else.

My guess is that Halloween appeals to pre-teen children because it is a first step toward independence. And there is so much from the outside world (read= English-speaking world) that supports the mythology of ghosts, witches and vampires, that are the stock characters for this holiday. And it feels a little dangerous for a ten-year-old to dress up like a banshee and actually knock on neighbours' doors.

I compromised. I let the girls do this if they let Erik go with them.  

Erik claims that celebrating Halloween comes from Germany. I'll have to check on that. The Christmas tree came from Germany with Martin Luther. Or so my mother told me once when I was a child. I'll have to check on that too.

When  dividing up the spoils of the afternoon (they came home before dark), they put everything that they did not like in a pile -  liquorice, tough so-called chewy sticks, sour drops and bad chocolate - and gave it to me. Thank you sweetums!

Dividing the spoils

Word count according to WordCalc: Not Applicable.


Best wishes,

First Commenter:

Rainforest Writing


Thursday 2 October 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group for October 2014 - IWSG

Anna Nordeman

This is author Roz Morris

IWSG - Insecure Writer's Support Group for October 2014

This is my eighteenth post for IWSG.  And I am posting late. Alex J. Cavanaugh may think that I am not posting at all this month. Sorry Alex. There has just been too much going on in my offline life.

As I have mentioned before, after reading Roz Morris' how-to-write books in her Nail-Your-Novel-series, I am convinced that she knows what she's talking about. So I've decided to read her novels. I have read both, but I am especially fond of Lifeform three, so here are a few words about this thoroughly enjoyable novel:

Lifeform three is Roz Morris' second novel in her own name and it belongs to two genre categories: Literary Fiction and Science Fiction. 

As a Science Fiction novel, Lifeform three is a dystopia, but a fun one. It is a fable set at a future time, when cities have eaten up every last bit of free land because of floods from global warming. 

From chapter 3: Between the roofs and the roads, there was no room for countryside.

But most of all, this is a story about what it means to be human, despite the fact that almost all of the characters are robots! If you don't count the human visitors, the only living and breathing creatures are the "lifeforms" (animals) that live in this last oasis of countryside, for which the robots are caretakers. 

Lifeform three is well-structured and beautifully-written; a school example of 'showing rather than telling' where every word is carefully weighed. The first chapter introduces the main character, and lets disaster strike him. It is not immediately clear what has happened to him. We get to know gradually. Roz Morris waits with a teaspoon of back story until chapter two. Chapter one is very, very short, only two pages long, but packs the essentials with few words. It starts with these two sentences:

 Paftoo leads the horse towards the shelter. He can feel the storm coming.

These words tell us that this is a story about someone named Paftoo who takes care of a horse. He wants the horse to be safe and secure. There is a storm brewing. How many horse stories have a scene like this? What a caring human being, Paftoo must be, I think, as I read these first two lines.

But Paftoo is not a farmer who owns his own farm. He is simply a worker on a farm, and the farm is not a farm as we know them in our time, but the very last piece of country property that has become a theme park where people come to enjoy an outing. For the generations who know nothing about how things were before the floods, they can get a taste of the countryside at Harkeway Hall theme park. But these visitors to the park don't understand animals. 

Paftoo is patient and gentle with the horse. The horse is frightened by a family of visitors who drive their car over the field. 

Paftoo runs to the car, waving, 'Excuse me, please would you leave the field?'
      Brakes squeak. The car stops. A head in a baseball cap pops out of the window. Small eyes squint at Paftoo. 'Why?'

Paftoo explains to the man driving the car, that they are scaring the horse. Paftoo needs to get the horse in the shelter of a truck parked nearby. The man doesn't understand. He thinks that they can do whatever they like in the park, so they just keep driving in the field. 

The storm is now overhead and flashes of lightning scare the horse so that it runs away. Instead of taking shelter for himself, Paftoo runs after the horse and gets struck by lightning. When that happens, the family in the car finally do stop to see Paftoo turn blue.

Freddy stares at Paftoo. He whispers: 'Is he all right?'
     'Oh you don't need to worry about that,' says Dad, and takes picture. It's only one of those bods.'

If we did not understand before that Paftoo is a robot, we do now. But Paftoo is to me more human than the breathing individuals sitting in the car. 

This is Roz' idea of what the 'Pebbles' look like.

This is Witley Park, the inspiration for the room under water.

With Paftoo, Roz Morris has created a character we can care about and root for from the start.

Roz Morris is inspired by such works as:

George Orwell, 1984
Ray Bradbury, Farenheit 451
Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale 
Aldus Huxley, Brave New World
David Almond, Skellig
Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
Kenneth Grahame, Dream Days
Peter Shaffer, Equus

Even if Roz Morris is inspired by many different well-known science fiction novels, her novel, Lifeform Three is a strong independent work of art, and a joy to read.

Best wishes,

Here are some tags that pertain to Roz Morris' novel, Lifeform Three:

horses, science fiction, dystopia, future, global warming, ray bradbury, future earth, landscape, bradbury, future of america, future of britain, fiction fantasy contemporay, margaret atwood, future tech, sea levels, future humans, future fantasy fiction, dystopia climate change, future run by computers, future animals, future of the human condition, future possibilities, vanished houses, vanished mansions

First Commenter:

Alex J. Cavanaugh

Wednesday 24 September 2014

WEP September Challenge - Changing Faces - 24th-26th September 2014

Welcome to WEP's Challenge for 24-26 September, Changing Faces.

I've just finished reading Roz Morris' science fiction/literary novel, Lifeform Three (2013), which I highly recommend. So I am going to give Sci-Fi another try here.

Changing Faces

Veronica Carlgren awoke one morning to find that she had forgotten what she had done the night before. Thinking back, trying to remember what happened, she realised that she had trouble even remembering her own name. 

What's happening here? What do I know? Where am I? Who am I?

She looked around the room to see if it was a familiar place, but it looked barren av personal mementos or photographs that would trigger her memory. Hospital beds. There were two. The one that she had slept in and another that was made up and hadn't been slept in by any ... patient.

Why am I in hospital? What kind of a hospital is this? 

She looked out the window. Yes, there was at least a window.

The window overlooked a garden or green area nearest the building and farther away she could see a large parking lot. It was a clear view. She must have been on the second or third floor. It was green outside, but whether it was spring, summer or early fall, she could not pinpoint yet. Maybe she could take a walk outside and see.

Suddenly, the wide door to the corridor opened and a women dressed in some kind of professional uniform wheeled in a cart with a breakfast tray and medicines.

'Good morning, Veronica!' the uniformed boomed, 'Glad to see you up and around. You must be feeling better! How about some breakfast?'

'Thank you. That would be nice. Have you been here a long time? I mean, have you been here as long as I have been here?'

'No Love, I've been on holiday for two weeks. This is my first day back. I've read your charts and talked to the others. But I am not allowed to say anything. I'm just an aid. You'll have to talk to the doctor.

'When can I do that?'

'When they have rounds. They usually do that early on this ward,' she said looking at the watch pinned on her uniform's  breast pocket, 'Sorry Dear, they've already been here. You must have been asleep when they came. Better luck tomorrow morning.'

'You called me "Veronica". How do you know my name?'

'Your name is on the charts, Sweetie. It says "Veronica Carlgren" everywhere. My name's Alma, by the way. I'll be back later. Don't forget to take your medicine.'

Alma left the breakfast tray on Veronica's tray-table and wheeled the cart out of the room. It was cream-of-wheat in a plastic bowl, cold toast with a pad of margarine on a plastic plate, and a small sealed plastic cup of orange juice. Nothing glass or metal. Plastic spoon. Paper napkin.

Veronica sat on the bed pulling the tray-table closer. 

I may as well eat something, she though taking the plastic spoon in hand and tasting the cream-of-wheat.

It was then that Veronica noticed her own hands. She looked down at both of her hands. They were not the hands of a young woman, her age, that is, the age that she presumed that she was, around thirty. These hands were wrinkled and had visible veins. The skin on her arms was baggy, and had dark spots, the kind that really old people get. Some of her knuckles were a bit swollen from arthritis.

Have I been in a coma? For how long? 

She had no pain. She could move about freely. If she had been in a coma for a very long time she would not be able to do this. She would have trouble even getting out of bed, because of atrophy of the muscles. That much she knew, without knowing how she knew it. Had she been a nurse? She must find a mirror and look at herself. Maybe she could remember.

Veronica left the bed and looked around the room. There must be a bathroom or at least a toilet somewhere. There. She spied a door near the entrance. She opened the door, walked into the smaller windowless room and looked above the sink where there was indeed a mirror. But the face that looked back at her was a white-haired woman with sunken eyes and wrinkled cheeks.

Veronica did not know her.


[This text is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of my imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.]

Word count according to WordCalc: 710



This is a hastily written text - only a sketch - and the sci-fi ambitions evaporated due to lack of time. This past week has been filled of near-disasters. My ten-year old daughter, Elisabet, took a shower without paying attention to the fact that the floor drain could not absorb the water fast enough. She let the water spew out on the floor, to rinse her hair, again and again. The floor in the bathroom was quickly flooded and spilled out into the hall and ruined the floor there. It happened so fast, I couldn't stop it. I had to mop up as quickly as I could and literally bail out the two to three inches of water that covered the bathroom floor. 

My novel must have a flood scene in it! I have to use this.

Best wishes,

First Commenter:

Sally Stackhouse


Sally's Scribbles

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