Tuesday 21 January 2014

Music While You Write - The Creative Process

Music While You Write

Everyone has a different process when they're creating. Some prefer complete silence, others will like something as background noise, while others can work with music blaring, the TV on loud and six children all running around screaming. It's all about whatever works for you. I personally like to do a mixture of the first two. Some days I will only be able to concentrate when there is no one else in the house, or I have my office door shut with a sign threatening fictional death to anyone who disturbs me. At other times, I like to be able to hear things in the background.

Take today for example. I managed to get a chapter finished whilst I was home alone, but found that I needed something to listen to. So, I plugged in my new headphones and got my playlist up and listened to music while working. Right now, there is a DVD playing in the background as Miss D watches something and I'm still finding the inspiration to keep writing. However, there seems to be a trend of people talking about what music they listen to while they wrote a particular scene and/or book, so the piece for today is about the music I like to listen to as I write.

I am working on both a DYING THOUGHTS book as well as a standalone. I write two chapters of one, swap and then write two chapters of another. This system has worked well for me for the past six books I've written and like many people, when I find something that works, I stick with it. When I was writing a awkward love scene between Tara and another character, I plugged in my "long distance" playlist. I have a partner who lives in the USA and have made a playlist of songs I like to listen to when I'm missing him or when I feel like I'm in that mood. So, I started listening to those and found that I was able to get to the right feelings to properly write the scene.

It works for other scenes too. The standalone I am writing is about LGBTQ teens and there are a few that have partners, so again, my long distance play list will help me reach that part of myself that aids me in writing love scenes or romance or anything like that. However, as you are probably aware, I write mostly books for young adults in the crime and mystery genre. When I was working on my tenth book and had to write about the long distance past, I found that instrumental music was best for setting the mood. When I write about cases that Tara is working on, I'll listen to my "sad songs" play list which helps me find empathy and allows me to project that on to Tara as she deals with the grisly murders.

When I'm writing a happy scene, I'll listen to John Barrowman as he always brings a smile to my face and it allows me to tap into that emotion. When I want to feel nostalgic I'll listen to old Busted songs. I could go on, but I see little point, you get the idea I'm going for. There is not, at least for me, any one playlist that will help me write an entire book and as my tastes change, so do the songs I choose. The creative process is different for every writer and while I write these pieces to help inspire, I also do so to show people my own routines and quirks that influence my writing. I hope that I am at least successful in giving you, the reader, some input into what being a writer is like for me.

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Wednesday 15 January 2014

Pen, Keyboard, Tablet: The Many Ways To Create A Book - The Creative Process

Pen, Keyboard, Tablet: The Many Ways To Create A Book

In the twenty-first century, there are many ways to write. You can use a pen and paper, a typewriter, computer or even a tablet. I don't think any one of these is better than the other because the end result is the same. There is also the fact that some of these options are more portable than the other. Pens don't rely on battery power. Many typewriters also don't require a power supply, but they're not the easiest thing to lug from one place to another. Tablets can be small enough to slip into your bag, but big enough to not need an additional keyboard and the same can apply to some laptops. The best way for you to write can be a mix of these, or perhaps just one or two.

The obvious pro is one I have already mentioned and that's the fact that they don't require any power supply. The worst that can happen is that you run out of ink or paper to write on, and they are so cheap and easily available that it's not hard to replace them when you need more. The majority of people have the necessary skills to use a pen, but there are some drawbacks. I have Fibromyalgia and because of the way it affects my hands, I can't grip a pen for longer than about thirty seconds, which makes writing by hand either a really long process at best, to nigh on impossible. There's also the problem that it can be difficult to write down things fast enough to keep up with the thoughts in your head. This is a drawback for all methods of writing, but the pen comes with the additional problem that if you can write and keep up, then your handwriting may not be the easiest to read and if you can't read what you wrote, then you can't type it up. That's another disadvantage of the pen: the majority of publishers require work to be typewritten. If you're an indie author, you will need to be able to upload your work into cyberspace and that means it needs to be transferred to your computer at some point. However, despite these cons, there is something that I do miss about handwriting my chapters and that's the simplicity of it all. When I first started writing, I would hand write a chapter a day. Those were the days before the Fibro had caused my hand issues and I would then type it up in the evening and edit as I went. I did that up until I started writing my seventh book, at which point the pain from writing was so bad that I was starting to avoid writing and that wasn't a path I wanted to go down.


I've put these two together because they have similar results: you end up with neatly typed work and it allows you to send your manuscript off to a publisher without the added hassle of having to decipher and type up what you've already written. Typewriters and laptops are somewhat portable and while the typewriter doesn't generally need power, the laptop does and although batteries are improving all the time, you don't want to be sat in Starbucks writing and the battery die and end up losing all the work you've done. But in the age of email, typewritten work is less likely to be accepted and you're once again faced with the issue of somehow having to put everything on the computer so that you can send it to an editor. There are some editors who will be happy to accept the hard copy, but many others prefer to work on a computer. There is also the issue of typewriter parts, which are getting harder and harder to find and can get quite expensive. So if you do manage to get a lot written, and the ribbon runs out, then you're stuck. There is also the issue of mistakes. It's harder to correct these on a typewriter while keeping the work neat enough to be read by or submitted to someone else. Computers don't have that issue, you can edit as you go, change words, or even delete a whole section without it having an effect on the presentation. But they can crash at the worst possible moments and lose the work you've slaved over. There are also the issues of computer viruses and the worry of being hacked, all of which don't apply to a typewriter.


Tablets are very portable and there's an ever increasing range of word processing apps out there. There's also a large variety of cloud storage apps available, which allow you to transfer files easily between people or computers. I use the Dropbox app for a number of things, such as getting edits from my editor and swapping graphic files with my artist.
However, you once again have the issue of battery life. Many cheap tablets have a crap battery life, but it's not in everyone's budget to pay a lot of money for something that's still often thought of as a luxury extra. There is another drawback that some tablets don't have a large enough screen to be able to type very well with the onscreen keyboard. They are easy to make mistakes on, but again that is easily fixed without affecting the presentation of the final piece. I have a 10.1 inch tablet and I find it very easy to type with both hands on the keyboard. There is always the option of buying a separate keyboard that will connect to the tablet with minimal effect on the portability of the tablet. I have not tried to edit a whole book on a tablet, but my editor uses her iPad to do the actual editing and she seems to find that easy enough, albeit a little slow.  The ease of transfer and email mean it's pretty easy to use the tablet as your main writing tool without the need for another computer - be that laptop or desktop. I personally prefer to have both, but if in the future I am without a computer and the means to get one, I would feel comfortable just relying on my tablet. The only downside I can see to that is that a tablet does not yet have the processing power to do video and graphical editing. However, technology is moving faster and faster and it wouldn't surprise me if tablets become the norm for the majority of writers in the near future.

So however you choose to actually write, there are a number or pros and cons for each method. It really is just about finding what works best for you and many writers will use a combination of all three, whilst others find one that works for them and sticks with it. In the age of email, apps and e-books, it is becoming more common for people to use a computer or tablet to do the majority of their work.

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Tuesday 14 January 2014

Five Things You Should Never Write About - The Creative Process

Five Things You Should Never Write About

I did a piece recently about five things you should always include in your work (found here) and while this is a similar piece, it's more about situations you shouldn't include from your real life in your work. Of course, everyone is different and these are not hard and fast rules for anyone. Even if you consider them as rules, bear in mind that some rules are made to be broken. I know that I've been guilty of that myself on occasion! The good part about being a writer is even when you know all the rules, you also learn about when to bend them slightly, or even break them outright.

So, without any further ado, here are my top five things that I think you should never write about!

Now, I'm not talking about cameos here or even just using their names for characters. Sure, you are welcome to do that, but I would say that it's best to always ask permission from the person first. You don't want to be confronted with an angry friend who just found out that you made them a psychopath who killed sixty people. This rule is about not just using their name, but their personality, their physical description and events from their life. It's just not cool to put all that information out there without asking for their permission, and even then I would say it's a grey area.
You might also want to steer clear of self-inserts too. Part of writing fiction is making things up for a living. So, using a real person as your character seems like you're cutting corners and just inserting them into your work without doing the work yourself. As always, there are exceptions to this rule, but for me, writing about a real friend and their life is a big faux pas.

This goes with number five in a way. Just as it's bad form to use a friend for a character, it also applies to embarrassing true life details. I don't mean a situation that you were in, as I said in the companion piece to this one, there is a balance between including an awkward situation that you experienced and giving away too much information that isn't needed in your work. If you want to include the time you slipped in flip flops and broke your leg in three places while outside naked, then go right ahead (and no that didn't happen to me!) I just mean that while it's okay to go so far with what you share of yourself in your work, you have to be careful not to go over the top.  Have I broken or bent this rule myself? A little, but part of going through a writing journey is learning how far the rule can be bent before it becomes an annoyance to the reader. I am also aware that my editor has told me to cut a few of those so sometimes you can go past that point and not realise it until someone else reads your work. That's the benefit of having an awesome editor!

Now, I know that you all know that this is not something you should do...EVER! I'm not talking about the most obvious forms of plagiarism where you basically copy word for word, I'm talking about including information from other books that isn't relevant. You might want your character to talk about the latest book from Sue Grafton or Harlan Coben, but there is no need to discuss the plot in detail and include information that belongs to another writer. If you think about how hard you work in creating from nothing, you can imagine how much it would anger you to find your work mentioned, discussed and the ending given away as someone in another writer's work causally discusses it, especially when it doesn't seem relevant to the plot. There is also another part of this and that is tearing apart another writer's work and using your characters to do it. That's just a big NO. If you don't like what they've written, at least have the decency to leave a review on their work or keep it to yourself. There is no need to include all the bad points about it in your own work because it just makes you look like a bad person. I have mentioned other books in my own works, but never more than a few mentions and I try to make sure they are always relevant. And, going back to the great editor, sometimes they don't make it into the final draft.

This point is higher up than turning your friends into Real Person Fiction because we all have things in our families that we would rather other people not know about. While you personally may feel that it's okay if you tell everyone about the time your little brother dressed in your mum's underwear and strolled round the garden, he might find it offensive and unnecessary. There's also the little things like the fact that your aunt is in prison more often than he's out. There's no need to tell everyone your family's dirty secrets. All it's going to do is cause upset and more family drama. I know that not everyone will feel the same way and that some families don't actually have any dirty secrets, but it's still not cool to include things that just aren't relvant. Especially if it's your way of getting back at someone for what they said/done to you. It goes along with point three in that it does not reflect well on you as a writer. Of course, there are some things that can be written down and presented in such a way that no one would know, but I would still say it's not something you should write about.

And finally #1 - REAL LIFE CAN BE TOO REAL
I know that a lot of people read to escape, or to dream about how if they lived in that particular universe life would be different. However, I also know that if we only wrote about the good parts of life, writing would be very difficult and it would mean that those who don't experience a perfect life feel like they're not being represented in fiction. As I mentioned in my last piece, people want to be able to relate to your characters, so not including things like death, disease, mental health problems, war and child abuse etc means that there will be a huge number of readers who will find it hard to actually relate to the people you've written about. However, once again there is a balancing act between what to include and what not. You can get to the point where things are too "real". That said, I am in no way advocating that you don't write about real life, as I've said in the past, life inspires us and what one reader would see as too real, another would see as a piece of work they could relate to, so it's a juggling act once again.

As I've written this piece, I have found myself seeing exceptions to some of these points. The last one especially. For people who have seen a lot of the bad of the world, reading about it can be too much or it can help them start to heal from their trauma. Seeing other characters who have gone through what they have can help them to see that life does get better. I know that for others though, it can seem like reading about it will only make it worse so I guess it's all about the individual reader and how they feel. Take each of these points with a grain of salt, I'm only talking about my own experience here and obviously, I can not speak for every writer or reader.

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Thursday 9 January 2014

Five Things You Should Always Write About - The Creative Process

Five Things You Should Always Write About

Now, down to the stuff you're here for. I've done a piece on five reasons why you should never become a writer (found here) as well as one for why you should become a writer (found here) and continuing along that theme, here's my top five things that you should always write about. Of course this is my top five and may not apply to everyone, bear in mind that I write young adult books so that, of course, will be reflected in my choices. Now that's out of the way, here's my top five!

Part of writing is making it realistic, and part of that is you'll have to include relationships of some kind. For those who write in the romance genre, that's a given, but for other writer's who don't want their work to focus on people falling in or out of love, why is it important for them to include these? Well, even if we're not talking about a romance genre piece of work, the main character will interact with other characters and for that you need for them to have some kind of relationship, be it romantic, family or even simply social relationships. So, one top tip from this indie author to you is that unless you're writing about a hermit who never comes into contact with another living soul, you will have to write something about their relationships. And it doesn't have to be with living people either, or even people at all. The main relationship can be between a man and his dog, or cat, ferret, goldfish, or even the relationship they have with alcohol or drugs. All of these things can be included and you can even use your own life to draw inspiration. The main thing is that everyone interacts with something, be it human, animal or chemical or anything else.

Now, I know it's hard to write something that everyone who reads the book will laugh at. Everyone is gifted with their own unique sense of humour and so what may be funny to one person may not be to another person. However, it always seems like a good idea to have something that will appeal to people and make them laugh. I love it when someone reads a book, mine or not, and laughs out loud. I know that for some genres it's not possible for it to be brimming with comedy gold, but every now and then you'll have the opportunity to lighten the mood. The balancing act of writing a good book is knowing how much is too much. I've read books where they've gone over the top and it stops being funny after a while. You also don't want to use the same jokes over and over because again, that will get old fast. As it seems that I always say this, I'll say it again, writing a good piece of fiction is a balancing act to include everything while not going to too far either way. I think that's gonna end up of my gravestone: "Joey Paul - thought life was a balancing act and then she fell off."

The best thing about being a writer is being able to use your own life experience to inspire you to write. I have done it countless times. In BLACKOUT, Lisa shares a condition that I suffer from while in another one of my books, a secondary character also has a similar condition to one of the ones I have and I love that in writing about them, I am injecting a part of myself into my work. I think most writers find that their lives will inspire their writing and that can be both a good and bad thing. I'll focus on the good for now as the bad is a piece for another day. When you're a writer, you need to find inspiration for some of the everyday, mundane scenes that can be more tedious to write. I don't mean that you should include every time a character takes a bite out of their food, or their toilet habits, but there are occasionally times when to move the plot forward, you have to include everyday scenes of normality and in those times you can use your own life experience to inspire what you write. Of course you can use a lot of other parts of your own life to influence scenes, but my point is that you should always try and put part of yourself in your work, whether it's a medical condition or just an experience that you have first hand knowledge about.

Can you remember your first kiss? The first time you were asked out? When you realised you were gay? Of course not all of those apply to everyone, but for some people using their own life experience can lead to including some awkward scenes and that's not always bad. You can of course go too far and make it so awkward, it makes your audience cringe, but somewhere in between there's the chance to show a more human side to your characters. Our job as writers is to make it so people can relate to the characters in some way, including that awkward moment when you had your first kiss and there was slobber and tongue where there should have been none. It's embarrassing and awkward, but it makes the character you're writing about that much more real and isn't that the whole point of writing for many genres?

I know that a big thing about selling books is making the synopsis or the blurb intriguing enough so that it grips the attention of the reader and makes them want to read the book from cover to cover right there and then. At least, that's how I choose which books to buy. Writing the perfect blurb that will sell the book (or at least generate some interest) means that you need to include something in the text that will pique the interest of the reader, such as an unexpected plot twist, or a completely different take on a common trope. However you choose to do it, you should always write something that is going to hold the reader's interest, otherwise your book is not going to get out there. People want to read about characters who time travel, or use psychic powers to solve crimes. They want to read about people falling in love with unlikely suitors.
They want to read about a gay character dealing with their first proper relationship. They want to read about people like them, people they want to be like, people they love to hate and many many other things besides that. I could go on, but I think I've made my point. People want to lose themselves in your work, so your job as a writer is to deliver on the promise that you set out in the synopsis. And if you can keep them entertained and interested in one book, they're more likely to pick up more of your work in the future,

Of course, a lot of these points intertwine with others and as I said at the beginning, these are my top five. Everyone is different and every reader is different. It's once again about finding your place between going too far and giving too little. Writing is a rewarding job, and I don't know what else I would do if I wasn't a writer because it's part of who I am, just as it is for many other writers out there. So, think about what your top five are and keep writing and reading!

Follow Joey on Facebook or here on her blog to be kept up to date with all the latest news regarding Joey and her books.

Thursday 2 January 2014

Guest Bloggers Wanted!

So, it's now 2014! I have over 400 likes on Facebook and I'm wanting to get other people to write on this blog. So, I'm putting the call out for some guest bloggers! You can write on any topic you wish, all you need to do is email me at bugbooks@virginmedia.com and tell me what you want to write about. It can be promotion for your own work and blog. It can be a creative process piece. You can include links, photos and all of that! So, if you'd be interested in being a guest blogger here on Joey Paul Online, get in touch!

Hitting 350 likes on Facebook!


We hit 350 Likes on Facebook (and standing about 466 right now!) so that means it was time to share the final excerpt from WAITING ON YOU as promised! Click the picture above to read when Angelina and Zack finally reveal their feelings for each other! WAITING ON YOU will be released in the summer of 2014 and is the tale of two teenagers who are from completely different walks of life. They meet online and find themselves falling in love.

Happy New 2014 everyone! I hope this year brings much happiness, joy and may all your dreams come true!

Wednesday 1 January 2014

How To Nurture Plot Bunnies & Your Muse - The Creative Process

How To Nurture Plot Bunnes & Your Muse

May I first say that I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and holiday season and I wish you a Happy New Year. Thanks for following me for the past year and I hope that 2014 holds many good things for you.

I don't know about any other writers, but my muse has a physical form. It's a NanoBug and sometimes when I'm stuck, I switch it on and let it run rampant over my chapter plans and character notes. Sometimes it works and I get myself out of the funk that I was in, other times it falls off my desk and goes zooming around under my feet looking for a place to hide before it gets rolled over or trapped. Muses are like that sometimes, they're great when they're doing what you've asked them to do, but other times they can be little buggars and withhold what you need from them. So, how do you nurture your muse and any plot bunnies that come to visit you?

Plot bunnies are a difficult breed, they visit at odd times of the day and night. I know that some writers will keep a notebook and pen by their bed so that as they're drifting off to sleep they can write down any ideas that come to them. I know of other artists and people who do the same. It does seem to be the general case that plot bunnies will come hopping along as you're drifting towards sleep. I also know that they seem to come with an amnesia pill that wipes you of their plans when you wake up the following morning. You are aware that they were there but they never let you actually remember what they whispered into your ear.

Of course, muses that zoom around the desk and plot bunnies that act like the sandman are just my personal way of describing the things that inspire both your writing whilst working on a project and the initial idea that kicks if all off. I recently wrote a piece about how sometimes writers can take on too much work at once (found here) and told you all about how my latest plot bunny paid me a visit whilst I'm in the midst of two other books and simply do not have the time to spare to start a third. I tried to work on it, but my muse had other plans.

I have learnt during the time I have been a writer, more years than I care to admit really, that sometimes you have to apply tough love to your muse to get the job done. I think it was Neil Gaiman who said that part of being a writer is that you can't just write when you're inspired. You have to write when you're not too. He has a good point, writing daily is something that most, if not all, writers should try to do. But what do you do when the ideas have dried up and you're left without any inspiration on where to go next? I certainly don't hold the key to that answer, but I have employed a few tricks in the time I've been doing this and thought they may be of some use to you.

The number one thing you should always do is find ways to keep that elusive muse singing (or in my case whizzing around my desk). The same idea applies to plot bunnies. If you leave out breadcrumbs, they will come looking for you. Ideas are plentiful, I have always said that I will keep writing books until I run out of ideas and after nearly twelve books written, I can say that the ideas are still coming. Finding inspiration is not as hard as it seems, at least at times it isn't. It's about being able to turn the everyday things into something that inspires you to write a scene in your book. Whether it's someone you see in the supermarket whose eyes have wandered onto a beautiful woman and are looking at them with nothing but love in their eyes. Or watching the news and being inspired by the dark side of humanity with the crime stories, and the brighter parts with the latest scientific discovery. Inspiration is EVERYWHERE and part of being a writer is knowing what will and will not work.

As I said, when plot bunnies visit just before you fall asleep, they try to wipe your memory. I mentioned that some people keep a notepad to jot those ideas down, but it doesn't work for everyone. I personally, can no longer write more than a couple of words with a pen because of the cramps in my hand from Fibromyalgia. It's one of the reasons I no longer hand write chapters but use a tablet instead. So, upgrading the notepad to an app is fine, but what if you don't want to jolt yourself awake for every little idea that in hindsight wasn't workable or even that good? It's a thin line between getting the visit of the plot bunny down in print and torturing yourself through lack of sleep. You have to know when to draw the line. Other suggestions are using a Dictaphone, or an app where you can just record what you're thinking and then look back on it in the light of day. Another is to not make any record and hope that you remember in the morning - it works for some people, but for others it doesn't. Whatever way you use, it has to be something that won't mean you're sacrificing sleep, but still managing to stop those bunnies from wiping your memory.


It's all very well and good having a great way to record each and every idea that comes to your mind. Or to write out every scene that has inspired you, but you have to realise that we all have limits, some more than others. Since becoming chronically ill, I have been made all the more aware of those limits. One thing that is important when dealing with muses and bunnies is knowing when to say "I'm too busy". If you've reached the point where you're not sleeping because you're writing everything down, or you're not finishing anything because you stop to write a new scene before you can complete the previous task, then you need to realise that you have reached the limit of what you can and can not do. I have said many times that part of the creative process is knowing how many balls you can juggle at one time. For me it's uni work, two books and various other commitments. Others can handle a lot more, and some a lot less. There is no shame in not being able to do as much as this one writer you know who writes six books at once, all within six months of starting as well as doing three degrees and holding down five other jobs. It's just not realistic to hold yourself to someone else's standards and abilities.

As an English person who likes tea, I can tell you that every good cuppa needs some time for the tea to do it's magic and the water to infuse the tea leaves. The same can be said for ideas and inspiration. Sometimes, taking a step back and letting yourself mull over the idea is the best plan. It allows you to decide whether or not it's one that you feel can be worked through. It also gives your brain time to make other connections to that one idea. Perhaps linking it with a scene you wanted to write, or a genre that you've been meaning to break into. Allowing yourself time to think about it can lead to less time wasted looking at a blank screen and cursing yourself for ever thinking you could write about this. This point links up with the third one, knowing your limits. If you let the idea sit around for a while before jumping in and starting to write, it could be that by the time your workload has shifted to allow you to start working on the new project, you have pages and pages of research done, ideas and character plans and all of the rest that will enable you to write quicker and with a better idea of how the story should go.

As someone who frequently says that they believe breathing is optional, I know how hard it is sometimes to stop and just breathe. Sometimes taking a moment to catch your breath can allow you to properly judge whether or not an idea is viable. If you have let it brew for a bit but are too caught up in the fact that it sounds good and exciting and you need to start it right NOW!! You can't always see that in the long run, it's not actually going to work because person A would come off as a stalker if they chased person B after one meeting in the supermarket. Or that killing this person in that way would mean that the detective would have no evidence to find out who did it without bending the rules of reality a little. Sometimes, just taking a moment to breathe allows us to look at things a little more critically and gives our judgement a chance to really examine the idea. So, just remember folks, that a brittle asthmatic may think breathing is optional, but it's not really!

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