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M.J. Stevens – Author and Creative Spirit

A young woman trying to make sense of the world

Month

November 2015

Inspiration can hit years later

How the girl with the flower gave me sudden clarity.

flower

I spend a lot of time contemplating life. It’s almost a hobby of mine.

Good or bad habit, the other day I got thinking about my school days as I attempted to write up a resume for my author work, basically answering the question of WHY I would want to talk to young people at libraries or schools. (The stuff of some people’s nightmares. Teenagers? AHHH!)

I had to add in my educational background and it reminded me of a brief moment in time, one that I had almost forgotten. There was a day that inspired someone, and I didn’t even realise it.

Our school had a fundraiser event where flowers could be purchased, I think for 1 or 2 dollars, to support a charity.

Every year couples would buy each other these flowers and send them to each other, or crushes would use it as a way of confessing. The most popular girl at school, of course, got several from people who both loved and were scared of her, a bit like Regina George from Mean Girls.

 

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Such a good movie!

 

I wasn’t expecting a flower. I didn’t have a boyfriend, and I was certain no one had a crush on me. But I did get one, with little more than a brief “You’re so awesome” sort of message on the card, and no name.

It bugged me so much. Who the heck sent me this flower? I was in year 12, feeling like one of the most powerful people in the school because this was my final year. I wasn’t going to shy away; I wanted answers.

I asked a friend of mine who was part of the committee to look into for me. My heart did drop a bit when she tracked down the list of orders and told me it was a girl who sent it, my secret heartthrob dream fading.
But this girl was in grade 8, a newbie to the school. I didn’t recognise the name, so … why?

During the lunch break, I made my way through the grade 8 blocks looking for this girl, having no idea what she looked like or who she was, and I regret so badly that today I can’t for the life of me remember her name.

When I found her, she looked a bit scared, or intimidated, but I said, “I just wanted to thank you for this, it’s sweet.” And I gave her a hug.

The look on her little face was priceless like I was some celebrity. I saw her around a few times over that final year, always making it a point to say hello. I was baffled that she thought so highly of me. It made me want to do more to support the Year 8s where I could – and being a sporting (spirit) captain at the time I got involved in boosting the newbies spirit so they could carry it on after I had graduated, giving them special roles to play.

I’d like to think it had a lot to do with her.

I may have inspired her somehow back then, but today she inspires me to remember what I want.

Where did that person go? The confident one who made a total stranger send me a flower in recognition of my apparent awesomeness.

I’m not sure, but I do know I want to be that person again.

And that is why I would like to give author talks. Not for my own gratification, but because inspiration goes both ways. Besides, I want to do that girl proud, whatever she’s doing today.

NewMJ

Just write!! Oh wait…I’m not inspired.

“We write for deadlines, money and the thrill of a new project. Don’t forget, however, it’s just as important that we write to be inspired and to inspire others.” — M.J. Stevens

Let’s face it, making the time and effort to sit down and write every day is one thing. But what are you supposed to do when you’re all ready, coffee in hand, and there is sweet F.A. coming out of your brain?

Not everyone can sit down and just write. If you can, you’re my hero.

More than 90% of the time those people pumping out their next story have been inspired to do so beforehand and are just working on ideas their brain has tucked away. I see a lot of great programs asking people to sit and write, just sit and write, get the words down…WRITE!

But hold the phone there, what if I have no ideas? I mean, what if you have “an idea” like boy meets girl on a trip to Paris, and then they do this and this, but when it comes to writing those first chapters, you’re blank?

Here are three things that might be able to help:

Get in the mood to write, and feel it.

I recommend music as a first step. (I recommend music as every step, but I won’t today I swear). Not everyone likes music while they write, but a bit of listening and breathing can help get the ideas flowing, even if you have to turn it off to write. I keep my headphones on, and if I’m writing something dramatic, I will often put a key piece on repeat.

Researchers have said that our brain waves react to waves of sound and almost start to mimic them. So if you’re sluggish, put on something with a fast beat and listen. It wakes you up.

If you’re feeling alert, but are still stuck then research songs that fit with the theme of the book. Start seeing your characters and picturing things in your mind. Chances are, something is going to begin to form, even if it’s just a quirky idea about how your protagonist has a little nose twitch or something.

Don’t be concerned with writing in order

I used to think that I had to sit down and write from chapter one down to chapter whatever. The problems I encountered were many, including not having enough ideas to get started, getting stuck at about chapter ten because I have no clue where the story is going to go, getting frustrated over little things, and editing my first draft way too much – up to the point where it drops off because you have no more words.

If you have an idea for a moment, sentence, glance, feeling or anything at all, write it down. Don’t let it pass or assume you will remember later. Phones these days are fantastic. You can make notes and then email them back to yourself for later; that’s what I do. When you get home, make sure you compile and write it into a safe place, like your manuscript or somewhere you keep notes so it’s not accidently deleted.

I have to start at the beginning… but that opening sentence…

If you must write from page one, or you’re keen to get that first line right (which you will inevitably change later anyway) go back through your book stash. Open all the books you can find the same genre as yours and see how they start. What’s their first line? How does the book lead in? Often we think more about how books end then how they begin, so take notice of how other authors are choosing to introduce their main characters to readers. This should give you an idea of how you’d like others to meet yours.

I hope this helps and good luck for NaNoWriMo!

Saying goodbye to writing The Guardians

For so long, even having a book was a total dream. Now, Liberated has launched and the Guardians have been set free…

I always knew that leaving my characters behind at the end of the Guardians Series would be tough, but I almost don’t know what to do without these guys.

I think some authors drag out their series (and this is purely my opinion!) because they don’t know how to end it/are scared of what will happen when it is over. I’ve thought about it, keeping my series going that is. I mean starting a new book from scratch is really scary, especially when you’ve had a strong cast driving the last 4 books. It feels almost like a breakup. You’re happy for them, but at the same time are secretly thinking “what would’ve happened if you had stayed in it a little longer”?

The Guardians Series was originally five full length books. However after much drafting I realised that a lot of the same stuff was being repeated, or just didn’t make any sense, after three books (excluding Hidden which is short stories). So I took what I loved about the five and worked with it. I truly hope that people like the ending, and that they don’t feel jibbed or unhappy about investing time to read the books.

I’m looking forward the new adventure of writing characters I’ve never really met before and getting to work them into the story. Sometimes I have to remember that I’m not starting from square one as this isn’t my first book. ^_^ Like I said, sometimes it still feels like a dream.

Please help me improve in 2016!

I’m an indie author. That means I’m a writer, event organiser, public speaker, accountant, complaints department, social media manager, marketing assistant, proofreader, copywriter and website designer. Wheww… so basically, I’m a business!
And as a business I want to know what I can do to keep you guys around in 2016, sharing next year’s magnificent journey!

I have a super quick 1-2-3 survey I would appreciate you filling out. Tick as many boxes as you see fit. The top answers will be put into action as soon as possible.

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