Why You Ought to be Writing in the Morning (Part 2)

This post follows on from my last post on why I ended up writing in the mornings (even though I’m a night person). You can read that post here.

Starting a routine that includes writing in the morning is not easy. As I said in my previous post, I’m not a morning person. I’ll repeat:

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If you’ve read my previous post, you’d know that for me, the writing was on the wall (pun intended!). I had to find some writing time, and mornings was the only option I had left. I know I’m in the same boat as all of you other lovely writers out there; we all play the ‘find some writing time’ game – trying to shoe-horn writing time around a hundred other things: work, children, our partners, cleaning and all the other myriad of jobs and tasks that make up life in general. The amazing Kate Forsyth wrote in the park while her children played. J K Rowling wrote in a café while her child slept. Other people write on train commutes, or during lunch breaks. Like everything else in life, we decide how important writing is to us and make time (or not) accordingly. When there’s no boss looking over your shoulder, no KPIs to meet, or bills to pay (of course there’s always bills to pay, but for must of us writers, it isn’t our writing that’s paying them), it’s easy to let writing drop down on the priority list.

Every writer decides what they’re willing to sacrifice to get words on the page. So, for me, after realising that the only time I had to write was mornings, I set my alarm clock for 5am (which gave me a solid 2 hours before I needed to get the kids up for school at 7am) and got up to write. Two hours of sleep was a sacrifice I was willing to make.

I’m not going to lie to you. Getting up in the morning sucks. It’s cold, it’s dark, the bed is warm and your brain is fuzzy. You trip over the dog. You scald yourself pouring coffee into your cup. And when you get to your computer, you’ve no ideas other than how nice it would be to go back to bed about now. Once, again, it’s a bit like this (but far less cute):

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But you’re up, and you’re at your computer, so you write. Everything you write is pretty much drivel. But you figure your first drafts are usually drivel anyway. You push on, keep going and before you know it, an alarm goes off, or a child gets out of bed, or the dog starts barking to go out, or the sun will rise and you’ll have to stop what you’re doing (sometimes mid-sentence, but even that isn’t as bad as I imagined it would be) and say to yourself ‘that’s it for today’.

And, if you’re like me, you’ll find that after 2 hours of solid writing (minus breaks for coffee and the bathroom and a piece of toast and some internet research), you’ll have written between 1000 and 2000 words (maybe a little bit more on a good morning). And best of all, you don’t have to think about writing for the rest of the day, because your word count is already done! How awesome is that?!

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Instead, you can use your time to enjoy what you’re doing with your day and let your story simmer at the back of your mind, knowing you’re going to revisit it again tomorrow. Your energy goes into thinking about your story, rather than worrying about whether you’ll have the time or energy to physically sit down at your keyboard (which can be enervating in itself.)

If you need further encouragement to switch to mornings, why not check out this article here, which explains why science thinks we ought to be morning writers (and don’t despair if mornings aren’t really your thing, if you read the whole article it has plenty to say about the value of routine building regardless of the time).

So you’re sold on morning writing now, right? But still not sure how you’re going to get out of bed? My next post includes my top 6 tips for early rising writers and how to make the switch to morning writing.

Why You Ought to Be Writing in the Morning (Part 1)

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You’ve heard it a hundred times right? Everyone (and sometimes it feels like everyone) tells you that you’ve GOT to get your writing done in the morning. Get it out of the way. Get those words down when you’re fresh. Get on with your day.

Well – I’ve pretty much been ignoring that advice for as many years as I’ve been alive. I’m a NIGHT OWL. Always have been. At high-school, all my best study was done between the hours of midnight and 6am. University was the same: in that quiet, dark time when it feels like the rest of the world is asleep, that’s when the magic has always happened for me. Most of my writing has been done between the hours of 10pm and 2am. I pretty much wrote and edited the entirety of my novel White Eyes during those hours.

And honestly, who in their right mind wants to get up early if they don’t have to? Getting up before everyone else has always seemed to me to be a form of strange and unusual torment. It’s scientifically proven that the human body doesn’t mind staying up late (something to do with our sleep patterns and natural body clock, I think) but struggles to get up earlier. Especially when it’s cold. And dark. Or dark AND cold. (I just made that last bit up but it works for me).

BUT:

Night writing does take its toll. Full of ideas and fuelled by caffeine, I’ve always found it very hard to switch my brain off after a late night session, hard to get to sleep. That makes mornings a bitch – a tired, sleepy, grumpy, sluggish stumble to the kitchen for more caffeine. I’d often delegate morning routine with the kids to my hubby (I’m very lucky he works close to home) so that I could get at least 5, perhaps 6 hours of sleep. It was hard, but it felt worth it – writing is sacrifice because the rewards outweigh the cost – and losing a little bit of sleep isn’t the end of the world.

I could have gone on like that indefinitely, but for two things:

  1. My eldest daughter started school. My kids are great sleepers, and up until that point, they’d generally not wake until 8am, but now she’d need to be up at least an hour earlier, and there were sandwiches to make, uniforms to prepare, hair to do. I was going to HAVE to get up earlier.
  2. This was the big one. My husband and I decided we’d like to add another child to our family.

I cut down my cups of coffee to two  – the recommended limit for pregnancy (don’t ask how many I would normally have in a day – it’s not a pretty number). And we waited. I went to visit an acupuncturist who specialised in fertility. She was adamant. I needed to get more sleep. I needed to be in bed no later than 10pm. And I ought to give up the coffee. I laughed in her face (in a good-humoured kind of way).  I’m a writer. Caffeine is the very substance I transform into words, and 10pm is my Prime Time. There was no way I could give those things up.

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And there was no way I could get more sleep. There weren’t enough hours in the day. But the acupuncturist was clear: I was 37 and had a low egg reserve – if I wanted the best chance of a baby I ought to listen to her.

Begrudgingly I gave up the coffee. Not quite cold-turkey, but close enough that I got terrible headaches. I still wasn’t quite ready to give up my nights though. I figured I could start writing at 8pm, be finished and in bed by 10pm. But without my usual afternoon coffee, by 8pm my brain had left the building. My eyes were drooping and all my ideas had already gone to sleep. I was like this (but not so adorable):

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It was all I could do to scour eBay for a few Review fit n’ flare dresses and check Facebook, before I’d drag myself to bed, or park myself in front of the TV (or just skip the middle man and not bother sitting down at my computer at all).

Something had to give. With two kids, I was getting no writing done in the day. I’d lost my prime night writing time. There was only one thing for it.

Set the alarm clock.

It was time for morning writing.

(pop back next week to read part two)

Reviewing the Classics: Wuthering Heighs by Emily Bronte revisited

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Hi all,

So I went to a live taping a couple of weeks back of a show called The Book Club. It was a great show – Paul Kelly sang a sonnet, and there was much discussion about a little book you might have heard of called Wuthering Heights. The discussion got heated, especially when it came to Heathcliff. For a full recap of how things went down, I’d definitely recommend stopping by Right or Wrong for a very funny, and entirely scientific analysis of the show here.

In the spirit of the debate, and since I haven’t read Wuthering Heights since I skimmed it in second-year university (nearly 20 years ago) I gave it a slightly less skimmed re-read, and what follows is my review:

This classic tale, set on the northern moors of England, has long been acclaimed as a both a torrid tale of passionate love and revenge, and a masterpiece of English literature. The main protagonist, Heathcliff, is considered by many to be one of the most smoking-hot villains to ever grace the page. A large part of it is probably because of his depictions in film looking like this:

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And this:

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And more recently this:

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Ahh Ralph Fiennes…

Yes, they are all very attractive men. But let’s move on shall we? Back to the book.. ahem. I have to say on my rereading of the novel (handsome men above aside), I really struggled to find any attraction to the dark, brooding, taciturn man who essentially tortures and ruins his family.

While the writing of Emily Bronte’s only novel still holds its haunting beauty, and Bronte’s descriptions of the moors are so evocative that one feels as though they are standing upon them, what really stood out to me about this novel on a reread of this book are two things:

  1. The utterly restrictive social status of women during the Regency/Victorian age. As women of any standing (and Catherine, I believe, is landed gentry) were not permitted to work, were given very little education and could often not inherit, a woman’s standing and her future were entirely dictated by an agreeable marriage.
  2. The alarmingly violent intergenerational cycle of physical and emotional abuse (particularly of women, servants, and children) perpetuated by all the protagonists throughout the novel. Heathcliff is a wife beater. Hindley throws his own child over a railing in a fit of drunken rage and shoves a knife between his servant’s teeth. Hindley’s child grows up to be a violent adult. Even more telling, these brutal acts were not dwelt upon by the narrator but accepted as a matter of course.

So, in revisiting this novel, I feel that my age and a modern lense have served to lessen its appeal. As far as Heathcliff goes, I found him thoroughly unlikeable; grumpy, physically and verbally violent, grudge-holding, vengeful and spiteful, and worse – completely unrepentant (except perhaps where his Cathy is concerned). There’s a term in modern romance called: the’Alphahole’ – an Alpha character who is so utterly Alpha, that he is actually a massive jerk. It does seem that Heathcliff appeals to younger women – perhaps he could be considered the pioneer of the YA ‘Hero.’

But what do you think – does Heathcliff still set a fire in your loins?

May Review Raves: Soulless by Gail Carriger and Mythmaker by Marianne De Pierres

I’ve got two books to add to your must-read pile this month (if you haven’t read them already). Both on these books sit on the fringes of the fantasy genre. Both are utterly fabulous and worth an immediate read. First up:

Mythmaker by Marianne De Pierres

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Genre: Urban Fantasy / Sci-fi / Western

Details: 320 pages, published 2015 by Angry Robot

Blurb: Virgin’s in a tight spot. A murder rap hangs over her head and isn’t likely to go away unless she agrees to work for an organisation called GJIC with Nate Sixkiller as her immediate boss. Being blackmailed is one thing, discovering that her mother is both alive and the President of GJIC is quite another. Then there’s the escalation of Mythos sightings, and the bounty on her head. Oddly, the strange and dangerous Hamish Burns is the only one she can rely on. Virgin’s life gets… untidy.

My Review: Virgin Jackson is back in the second instalment of Marianne De Pierres’ Peacemaker series. This one’s just as action packed as the first, as gun-toting ranger, Virgin, aided by the taciturn US cowboy Nate Sixkiller, her spirit animal and her possibly psychotic self-appointed bodyguard, Hamish, set out to discover the truth about the Mythos. She’s got a mystery to solve and her name to clear, and a bounty and a murder rap both hang over her head. Beautifully written and tightly paced, De Pierres’ novel takes us from wild, open spaces to cramped city slums and back again. Urban Fantasy meets sci-fi, meets western, this is a book that will grip you from start to finish. Yee-haa!

Grab it here (Amazon) or support local Australian bookshops, and grab it here (Booktopia)

You can read a stellar review of its predecessor, Peacemaker here.

 

Soulless by Gail Carriger

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Genre: Paranormal Historical Romance

Details: 373 pages, published 2009 by Orbit

Book blurb: Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette. 

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire — and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate. 

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

SOULLESS is the first book of the Parasol Protectorate series: a comedy of manners set in Victorian London, full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.

My Review:  A blend of Victorian, steampunk, regency comedy of costume, romance, horror, paranormal (werewolves and vampires) – Soulless is a librarian’s worst nightmare when it comes to deciding on a shelf to put it on. The storyline and concept, however, are both absolute crackers, and if you haven’t read this book (and I know I came to this party late) you really ought to!

Alexia Tarabotti is an outspoken, self-professed Victorian spinster who carries a cane just to beat up potential attackers. She’s attacked by a rogue vampire, who discovers (much to his dismay) that he’s messed with the wrong girl. Alexia has plenty of tricks up her sleeve (not the least of which is her Soulless ability which neutralises supernatural power)

Enamoured by the gruff, yet dangerously attractive Lord Maccon (who also happens to be a werewolf), Alexia must survive assassination and kidnapping attempts, her attraction to Lord Maccon (unsuccessfully), and her best friend’s terrible choice in hats. Written in a delicious Jane Austen style, there is enough absurdity in this book to make you laugh, and enough mystery to keep you turning the pages well into the night. Can you tell I’m Miss Carriger’s new number 1 fan?

Grab this book here.

Should I quit writing?

The Australian Government has proposed parallel importation of books and a drastic reduction on intellectual copyright – these measures would be disasterous – please sign the petition.

Josephine Moon

I am distressed.

Right now I feel like never writing another book. And I’ll try to explain why as simply as I can, trying to untangle the messy political drama that is about to change the entire Australian publishing industry and how it affects me personally.

The government has proposed and recommended that Australia does two things:

  1. Introduce parallel importation
  2. Drastically reduce copyright protection to just 15 years.

(You can sign the petition to tell the government you don’t want this to happen right here.)

How does parallel importation affect me and you?

  • The first point I want to make sure you know is that our contemporaries, the USA and the UK do not have parallel importation. We would be going against them. (Which doesn’t make sense, right?)
  • The next point I want to make is that New Zealand lifted their parallel importation laws and rather than seeing cheaper…

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Dr. Watson, I Presume? The Importance of Killer Sidekicks

A brilliant post by author Susan Spann on the importance of secondary characters.

Writers In The Storm Blog

by Susan Spann, @SusanSpann

Sherlock Holmes, mystery, writingWhether you write detective fiction, romance, historical novels or fantasy epics, a lone protagonist never receives as great a reaction as one with a well-developed supporting cast.

Foils serve to reinforce and highlight the hero’s good (and bad) characteristics, and also give the protagonist a chance to shine outside the primary narrative.

Although a “sidekick” isn’t mandatory, a strong secondary character improves many stories in several important ways:

1. Introducing an Alternate Point of View.

Sidekicks rarely agree with everything the protagonist does, and often have a radically different worldview. This gives the author a chance to present alternative theories, new opinions, and thoughts that the protagonist or hero might not propose on his (or her) own.

A sidekick proves especially effective where the sidekick has a different gender, religion, or race than the protagonist. In addition to adding great diversity to your fiction (and forcing…

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Which publishers publish fantasy novels?  

Looking to bypass the agent route and head straight to a publisher? Or just interested in discovering who the major players are in the fantasy publishing game? This fantastic list compiled by A J Dalton outlines publishers who publish fantasy, as well as giving links to their sites and whether they accept direct submissions from writers. Definitely worth a look!

Source: 8. Listing of fantasy publishers