Writing Travel – How to Organise a Trip for the Writing Soul

It all started with one question “what would I do if I was a full time writer?”. The answer was pretty simple: write, days in a row, all day; if possible, in a nice place.

A long weekend was coming up. I was single (still am) and had no plans for the long weekend coming up and decided to do just that. I chose a mountain nearby, found a Bed & Breakfast, paid with frequent flyer points and spent four days in heaven and finished a book. I travelled with the train, and for that trip, spent very little. Then I was hooked, I am now on my fifth writing trip in one year and a half.

It took me a few more trips to correct, edit and rewrite the book, to get it ready for publishing and I am here, on another trip, working on the book proposal and on my blogs, which get neglected when I’m writing a longer project.

I recommend the travel writing strategy to all aspiring writers who still need to work full time. Make arrangements with partners and children, mothers and friends, make this your time and make it sacred and uninterruptible. I ascribe to Mike Dooley’s precept of “do what you can, from where you are, with what you’ve got”, it cannot fail.

 

What to look for?

  1. What resources do you have, what can you spend?
  2. What type of places and views inspire you the most within your possibilities?
  3. Avoid distractions / do you need a place with no connectivity?
  4. Which sort of place makes you most productive?

Search your soul for your answers and find the resources. At the moment I am cat & house-sitting a friend’s house in the countryside, overviewing green hills, with the sound of a creek in the background and jumping wallabies in the forefront, the sound of birds and crickets lulling me. This is my ideal setup.  Yours might be a busy city with numerous cafes with fantastic Wifi. It might be an ocean view, or a quiet house. Although I love the water, for writing, green hills are even better.

Get the closest you can to your dream. Think of house sitting for a friend, or paying one AirBnb while renting your house out to someone else. It might mean house swapping and looking at a friend’s plastic swimming pool at their backyard. If that is the closest you can get to the ocean, so be it, the different environment, your imagination and your commitment are to be enough enough.

 

No bull, no lies

I have a perfectly nice apartment, with a desk overlooking the neighbourhood, looking out of a large door, I could lie to myself and say I would stay in and write all weekend. It would be so much cheaper than travelling and I could do it EVERY weekend! But, I would be lying to myself. I get distracted and anxious with what I am not doing, not going to the beach or not talking to my friends, the dishes need washing, there is food in the fridge that will go off if you don’t cook it, all 300kg of it, and the clothes might self destruct if you don’t wash them today.

During my writing masters I did that, spent weekends working on assignments and I’ve managed with a great degree of pain. While being away, writing eight hours a day feels effortless.

Remember to think not of what you SHOULD do, but what you DO do. Think of what is reality for you, not what works for other people.

 

Positioning

Make sure your friends and family know the hours you are unavailable, take it seriously and impose boundaries. I love places with limited mobile connection so I don’t feel obligated to answer messages and phone calls. More important than others is to make sure YOU understand the restrictions and don’t let yourself waste days lost in distraction and resistance.

 

The Enemy

Talking about resistance, usually, a writer’s most persistent enemy is her/his own head. The fear about the quality of what we write, the terror of finishing a project, the angst about the research, the character or the plot…

To understand more about resistance, I recommend “The Icarus Deception” from Seth Godin. He explains it perfectly. Work on your internal mindset in advance of the trip. Be emotionally prepared so you can make the most of the effort and time.

 

The Plan

Have a broad plan of what you want to work on. Is it a book? An article? What would you like to accomplish? Don’t be too strict, avoid creating unrealistic expectations that will make you feel under pressure and anxious during the writing time. The plan is just to get you ready to get to work straight away. Once you start, whatever comes of it is perfect.

My plan for this trip was:

  1. Finishing my book proposal to send to literary agents;
  2. Send it for editing and proofreading (hiring the freelancer and sending them the material);
  3. Work on my blogs; so when the agents look at my sites they can see some recent action and a fresh sample of my writing; and
  4. Reserve time for free inspired writing, in whatever inspires me at the time.

 

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Free inspired writing

What I call free inspired writing is what comes out when you are turning off your critical self, sending it off to a vacation somewhere else, far from you, or give it a sleeping pill. To get to it, you must forget all the shoulds, don’t worry about the quality or the quantity, turn off the inner and outer voices that are constantly criticising, analysing, commenting and evaluating. Eliminate judgement, scratch too long, too short, too emotional, too detailed, not enough description, not enough… you got the gist. Let it be, let it be… sing with me.

Free inspired writing is a first-first draft, it is raw and imperfect, full of mistakes and with absurds in logic, but it contains the CORE. The seed of what it will become. And, creating it, writing like that, is the joy.

 

Trust yourself

You need to make the commitment to have your work re-written, edited, criticised, proofread. By yourself and others, pulling up any resources available. It could be writing groups, asking friends to read your material, hiring freelancers, or, if you have the means, paying high-end editing professionals. By knowing that the writing will be put to its highest quality, you free your inner-first-drafter to do the free inspired writing I have mentioned above.

 

Keep the good habits

On the other hand, when writing your first draft, keep some good habits to avoid a proofreading nightmare in the future. At least make sure the ideas are clear, use capitals and good punctuation, set a minimum standard.

 

Mean business

When I get to my writing location I do what I need to show myself I mean business. What works for me is waking up in the morning and getting ready as if I was going to my regular job. I usually dress more comfortably but I still get dressed, put earrings on (earrings mean I’m not naked or sleeping), make my bed (so I don’t feel temped to go back to it and read the day away), have breakfast, make myself a nice extra cup of coffee, get my writing gear to the chosen writing location. Sit down and write for as many hours as I feel like.

What is your signal? What do you need to do to tell yourself that you are here to write? Pyjamas? Lighting a magic candle? A nice cup of green tea with pomegranate? Do it. Make it a symbol to your inner writer that says “ready, go!”

 

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PACKING CHECKLIST

What you need to remember to take with you:

  • Your project notes or file (remember everything you need including voice memos)
  • Your laptop or writing pad or typewriter – your chosen writing instrument
  • Accessories needed: mouse, internet dongle, pens, paper, extra typing tape
  • Power: laptop powering cables, extra batteries for mouse
  • Special screen cleaning wipes
  • Writing/reading glasses
  • Notebook or sketch pad if you use them for support
  • Favourite pen / extra ink (fountain pens) / extra pens and pencils
  • Download any needed research and support material, if you won’t have connectivity
  • Download music for writing; many writers have the right music for the right project, make it ready and available offline. Create the right playlist in advance, if you need it.
  • What item is essential for your highest productive writing
  • Think of food

 

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What is essential for you?

For me, it is coffee. That is why I bought a mini expresso making machine and a portable frother. It doesn’t matter where I go, I can make the perfect cup of coffee. Tea, chocolate, nuts, candles, what is the little thing that works for you? Remember to pack it.

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Thinking of food

Food can be one of the most time consuming and most effective distractions in a writer’s working day. I recommend thinking of food in advance, either preparing a few nutritious easy meals in advance, or researching the food delivery options near the location where you will be staying. I get organised to have a few days of easy food at hand, so I don’t waste too long with meals and can dedicate most of the time to the writing.

 

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Alone and completely connected

Writers are a strange breed… If I told my friends that their holidays would be spending alone writing at least 8 hours a day, most of them would think it’s a punishment. Instead, I feel so connected to the world, to myself and my mission in life, to my real purpose, that I come back happy, refreshed, inspired and can’t wait to start planning the next writing trip.

Right now, I’m on a covered balcony, overlooking green hills. I am listening to the creek’s water music, the birds are singing, a cockatoo is screeching, a light rain is starting to fall… I can smell the grass and the bush, the wet soil; I can see the sun on a far away mountain and the mist crowning another, as a halo, I hear the thump-thump of a wallaby moving nearby. I can almost distinguish the sound of each drop of rain fall, while my fingers fly over my keyboard, and I smile.

These trips make me feel like I’m doing what my soul was put in this Earth to do. I have no idea if that is true or not, but this is free inspired writing right? So, who cares!

Socialise Quietly and Write

Most Tuesdays, after work, I go to a Meetup in Sydney CBD for writers. It goes for two hours and we get together, sit down, and write.

A few people talk and exchange experiences once the clock reaches eight pm, on the dot. Others write until they have to go home. I write until I’m about to drop.

I cannot stop writing, it is usually one of my most productive writing moments of the week. I often get “in the zone” and produce high quality work, writing hard up to nine or ten.

Pumped by a guilty late-night-coffee — which will most certainly keep me awake or make me have an agitated, unrestful night — I think the sacrifice is worth it. Every time I debate, to coffee or not to coffee…

Tonight I have churned some great paragraphs and ticked many items of my to-do list for a specific project.

Trying to write, publish and promote your own books while working full time is a little bit like trying to give birth while driving a horse-cart with a spooked stallion must be. Creating life, giving birth to characters, while your attention is constantly demanded elsewhere…

The road doesn’t end though, so I keep bouncing, reins in hand, YEEHAW!

What are Kindle Singles? Is my book one?

I have recently self-published a Kindle book composed of four short stories. My initial idea was to publish it as Kindle Singles.

I am not sure that Amazon is very good at communicating stuff, of I’m not very good at understanding them.

I had a completely wrong perception of what Kindle Singles are. I thought they were shorter books and that you should add them to this category if your book was shorter than the usual novel length. In my imagination, it was your duty to classify a book as a Kindle Single, if they were smaller, so the client could know what they are buying.

I didn’t realise Kindle Singles are something else altogether. Yes, they are shorter books, novella size, but they are hand picked by Amazon to be classified as so. If your book is chosen, you benefit from Kindle Singles promotions, which gives your book a bit more visibility. Therefore, being a Kindle Single is something special.

This means that you have to apply, to send your work to the Amazon editors and wait six weeks for them to evaluate it. Then you might become a Kindle Single. 

Just when I was about to submit it I read “no collections accepted”. I sent it anyway, probably part of my Brazilian DNA that would not allow me to give up without a try, an attempt of bending the rules.

It didn’t work, so “Sideways Reality”. [at Amazon AU, US, BR] is not a Kindle Single, but I’m still proud to call it my own!

Did Amazon make a mistake?

‘I don’t have a Kindle, can I read your book somewhere else?’

When I published my books in Portuguese I received a lot of questions about how to read them. I thought that was a specific problem related to the market. In Brazil, Amazon is fighting heavily with the big publishers, which hold the market with iron fists. Because of the low level of education of the majority of the population there isn’t much pressure the consumers can apply to these publishers.

The answer is: YES, you can. Kindle is an App for iOS and Android, phones, tablets and computers can have it. Some of them aren’t very pretty or good, but reading a book in one means you can continue where you stopped in any other platform. Amazon also has a cloud reader, where you can read books online and doesn’t have to install or download anything.

When I started receiving the same question from friends here in Australia it surprised me. It made me consider if Amazon had adopted a wrong strategy when they released Kindle. I wonder if calling the publishing platform and their electronic e-reader — the actual equipment — by the same name was a mistake.

If Amazon had called Kindle just the publishing platform, the software, and called the equipment “KindleReader” or “Kindler” or even “Kindleroo” (like a kangaroo carrying its books, get it?); maybe they would have been even more successful.

It would be clearer to the consumer that Kindle is the platform, and therefore something you can get for any device and the equipment can be bought to read Kindle books. With that clarity a lot more people would have joined Kindle and then would benefit from the great variety, cheaper books, free offers and portability.

In Love with Scrivener

It feels fantastic when your systems are working for you rather than against you. I am in love with the software Scrivener, which is a specific tool created for writers.

I found out about it during a Non-Fiction Festival from the NSW Writers Centre (www.nswwc.org.au) last year. Ben Law talked about it and I decided to investigate.

It is one of those things that you don’t know how you lived without it before. The same way I feel about the GPS and mobile phones. I remember the panic of using a paper map guide and turning the wrong way and I have no idea what you did when you were going to be late to meet mom at the mall.

The reason Scrivener is so fantastic is because it makes it easier to organise your thoughts. I have just published a new book in Portuguese at Amazon using Scrivener (“Simplesmente Gerva”)

Converting to Mobi was very easy and quick and none of the issues I used to have with word processors happened. I didn’t need to check all titles were in the same style, check for double spaces or any other ridiculous task that were obligatory before.

Going back to organising my thoughts, each chapter is given a summary card.

For this book, I noted on the cards when, where and who were in each chapter and with this I was able to get an overview of the time flow. Sometimes my character started something on Monday and suddenly it was Wednesday without any change in the day. With this technique and tool it was easy to see the overall picture.

I also acquired a MacBook Air once I discovered that Scrivener doesn’t run on iPad and decided that my writing tools are my number one priority. With the awesome help with my parents I got my new computer, new software and every day I am a happier person.

When I open my small bag, pull out my light, fast, potent little computer, put all my ideas (including this blog) into Scrivener and it can go straight into any format desired, it makes my heart dance with joy.

A bit of pleasure every day…

(Orble Votes: 29)

50 Thousand Words to Nano Victory

2013 nanowrimo winner certificate

Link: nanowrimo.org 

Last November (2013) I did it. I have ‘won’ the NaNoWriMo. I have written 50 thousand words in a month. I did expect to feel happy and a sense of achievement, but I didn’t expect to learn so much about myself while doing it.
The book is not ready, not even as a first draft, but the produce of that month is an infrastructure. It made me feel ready for the next step. I’m still searching for the elusive structure and coming to terms with my narrator. The challenge is that this narrator has to be strong enough to provide colour to the story but not too strong to detract from the main character.
This year is my final year on my Masters of creative writing and the two subjects left are projects where I intend to nail this, and having over 80,000 words written (counting 2012 nano’s plus many pieces I have written for subjects) should give me a good place to start.
What I learnt from the marathon was the capacity to write no matter what, tired after a whole day of hard work, uninspired, sick, write in the morning, in the afternoon, at night. I went through the fallacy that you need inspiration to write and found a well of capacity to do what it takes.
It also introduced me to something that I find hilarious: writing groups. A group of people who get together at a pub, sit down and write together. They barely say hello, there is very little chit chat, often I only learn the name of one or two people in a group of fifteen.
We meet, we put our individual music inside our ears, and we write alone, in a group.
I found groups that keep meeting even after the marathon and keep going to them. Something about having others like you doing the same as you do, having a time allocated and putting the energy to the task makes is highly productive.

NanoWrimo Progress
(Orble Votes: 28)

Indoors Saturday

Link: nswwc.org.au

Here I am on a Saturday, with an average of five speakers and a couple of hundred people talking about the intricacies of writing. “The take that people have on your take of them”.

It is the creative non-fiction festival at the New South Wales Writers Centre. I love being in the room thinking about what to write and not and the consequences of our words.
What to do when you are interviewing people who are big?
It is funny to think that for 10 minutes of my life I was in the same league as the lectures. With my interview with Justin Bieber I know and I knew at the time, I had no idea what I was doing… but did it. I did prepare, got over 60 questions ready, got two recorders which was great as one stopped and then did the best that I could.
Here I see a deeper level and even how wrong it could have gone.
Being in your passion makes anything interesting and talking about hurt sommeliers over a humorous article is just one of them.
(Orble Votes: 21)

Doubt is a Disease

It is like a disease, this sensation of not being sure and I wonder if everyone suffers from it one way or another.
Self-doubt it can be called but it is not a precise name. The doubt is not if you can do something, I have plenty of confidence in my abilities, what I sometimes lack is the confidence that I will do it.
It is like when you are going to meet an ex-lover you really don’t want to be involved with anymore. You know the pain but you also know how good it feels to be with him. You know you can avoid having a fireworks-unforgettable night followed up by a predictable heartache. The question is if I will avoid it.
Or when you have to do your tax declaration. You save the time, you keep the night free of any other appointments, you put in your calendar, let your friends know not to call you. But can you trust yourself not to sit on the TV, or read a book or play with your phone, or even with yourself? There is so many more interesting things to do!
During the day in question you feel half happy because you have made it all possible and you know you will do it, but another half of you is secretly suffering this self-doubting disease. Will I? Will I get home and sit on my computer and do it?
These examples were two of my victories, I have done my taxes and have avoided the ex-boyfriend but another one is afflicting me: NaNoWriMo.
A month to write 50,000 words. I know I can. I have the material, I have the voice, the narrator, the character.
I have the story, the inspiration and the will. But will I?
Am I able to wake up earlier or if I turn around and go back to sleep, will I get home after work and find the energy to write? Will I know what to write first, second and third?
Will I find a way to get the other things going at the same time or will I find distractions even within my passion? Like writing some other text to submit to an Anthology. Or will I have this fantastic inspiration to write the most amazing short story? Anything rather than concentration on this one book of 50,000 words.
Can I trust not only my will, but my barely-held-together mind?
We will see. It starts at midnight.
(Orble Votes: 22)

The Difference in My Writing Technique

It is not about you know, it is about the knowledge that becomes intuitive…

I am on a Masters of Arts in Creative Writing at UTS which I have started two years and six subjects ago. Recently I was revising something I have written when I was beginning the course.
I have realised how far I have come.
Mostly it was like practice driving.
When you learn how to drive you learn what you have to do but only by doing it repeatedly you will get to the point of really knowing it without having to think “now I have to break and look to both sides of the road for pedestrians”.
I had the knowledge of what was point of view, verbal tense, subjectivity of the narrator, before I started the course. But with the practice of reading, correcting and workshopping so many texts, pieces, articles, I realise now it is easy for me to analyse it, really see it and find the discrepancies.
Before I knew but could not see it. I would start a text in the present and change to immediate past without realising or be unaware that the point of view jumped in subtle ways.
Now I get it, my writing becomes clearer to me.
I rewrote the text with much more confidence.
Education pays greatly in my opinion.
Of course you can learn by yourself, but learning with help from people who know what they are doing and how to teach it has been an amazing experience.

(Orble Votes: 21)

Kindle and Ebooks: Amazon electronic books, everywhere, anywhere

Amazon instructions click here

I was surprised to hear from one of my friends that she didn’t know she could get Amazon e-books on her iPhone. I think people get confused with the name “Kindle” it is because it means a couple of things.

Starting from the start, Kindle is the name of the device, e-book reader Amazon has created. So it is a little equipment, in different models, where you can read electronic books. What some people don’t realise is that Kindle is also the name of the technology, the application or the software from Amazon that reads their format of e-books.

The Kindle apps are available for various devices: you can download it for your tablet, iPad, iPhone, Android Phones, Windows PCs, Mac computers, laptops and desktops. The best of all is that if the device is connected to the net, it automatically syncs notes, highlights and last-page-read between all devices.

I have a Kindle device, it is very light and doesn’t have backlight, so it is ideal for me to travel or read at night in bed. I have the kindle on my iPad, where I like to study or read during the day on my lunchtime. Then I have it on my mobile, to read on the bus when all the seats are taken. Finally it is on laptop to see any highlights when I’m studying a book and want to check my notes to write something about it. I also use it to check how my own books are going to look before publishing.

I also like Amazon because they have a lot of e-book titles and are constantly making promotions. It is much cheaper than buying the printed versions usually. There is a lot of free books too. They are great for the authors like me because they let us publish directly without needing a publisher, paying a high royalty rate and helping us in many ways to promote the books. I think they may have more titles than others because they offer advantages to the authors to keep them exclusive for 90 days and they make the process easy for us, the writers, it is all done online.
If you haven’t yet, try it out, you will experience a new world of possibilities opening up for you.

(Orble Votes: 24)