Christmas anticipation and writing tips

With every day that passes Christmas Day gets closer. This truth is manifested in several ways. Yesterday we hung chocolate balls on the large decorated Christmas tree in Lucas’s lounge. A surprising number of strings broke between the packet and the branches, but I was ahead of that little game and tied them together again so the ball could be hung up. On Friday he gets to eat one to celebrate the end of the school year and the start of the holidays.

Two days ago he got a letter from Santa himself. And Santa said he had his present right beside him and was looking forward to delivering it. Lucas had written a list and, apparently, the ‘fairy’ had picked it up and taken it to Santa. The same Christmas fairy who sits on top of the Christmas tree? We were playing a spy game the other day (as you do) and I had to walk in his exact footprints so that the bombs didn’t go off and he took me past the “tree of the falling nuts” and, apparently, the fairy sits on top of the tree and fires nuts at spies who try to slink past.

I heard this story anecdotally so I shall generalise it for my international audience. Five year old goes to a department store and sits on Santa’s knee. Santa asks, “What do you want for Christmas?” Five year old replies solemnly, “A beyblade.” Later that day he’s in a mall and sees Santa, sits on Santa’s knee and Santa says, “What do you want for Christmas?” Five year old frowns and says a little louder, “A beyblade!” At the end of the day five year old is in a hardware store and a wandering Santa leans down and says “And what do you want for Christmas?” Five year old looks puzzled. “Why didn’t you write it down the first time?”

So that’s why Santa is deaf. Old, deaf and not terribly bright, but still Santa and he has reindeer and best of all, presents.

Yesterday we made lemon honey. It’s the easiest thing to make, you melt butter and add sugar and lemon juice & rind and eggs and cook it over a saucepan of boiling water until it thickens. We had the juiciest, sharpest lemons and the result was divine. We’ll make another batch before Christmas and add it to the ‘homemade Christmas Project.’ Oh, I just feel so…Martha Stewart (without the insider trading) and it is fun to get down and dirty in the kitchen. Next week I have Lucas all day during the week and we’ll be making sweets and biccies. We will also have a ‘crafty time’ during the day, painting, making mosaics with all the smashed china I’ve saved and paper mache etc. It is difficult to tell who has the most fun.

My little ‘Amazon’ bubble has subsided, sales have slowed, but not entirely stopped and I am slowly slipping down the rankings. That doesn’t worry me, half a dozen sales an hour is still monumentally better than I was doing on Monday and nearly 500 people will, hopefully, read the book over the coming months. If the book is any good that might start to generate word of mouth. That’s what these three books are all about, showing the general populace that I love to write. Next year I intend to start a franchise, an ongoing series of books featuring a wonderful character – just not sure who he/she is yet.

Well we are getting close to the end of the writing tips series so today I thought I would highlight a half dozen of my own, from over forty years experience:

1. Read. Read a mixture of writing, magazines, essays, poetry, fiction, non-fiction. Read good writing and great writing, but also read bad writing. Read a few pages of a book with not such great reviews and see what went wrong and what you would have done. Read a newspaper every day, keep in touch with the world and look for ideas.

2. When you’ve finished reading, or watching something on TV, think about what made it enjoyable, think about why you liked the character, or otherwise. Think about the plot holes, what was weak, what was obvious, what else could they have done?

3. Read your work out loud. Listen to the rhythm of the words. Get someone else to read it to you so you can focus 100% on listening. If it helps, set up some empty jars and label them as your characters and get them to talk to each other. This lets your imagination take over without any subconscious filtering.

4. Go for a walk, with your senses. If it’s not the dead of winter take off your shoes and walk barefoot. Feel the difference between pavement and grass and describe it to yourself with unusual words. Listen to the sounds, smell what is carried by the wind and stop and smell flowers. Stick your tongue out and taste the wind. See how many words you can think of to describe green plants, look at texture and shape. Let your memory go to work, when I get a sharp prick on the soles of my feet it reminds me of Mum taking prickles out with a sewing needle – that’s an image I can use.

5. I believe very strongly in the power of the subconscious. I’m not sure how it works, but I know it does. If I’m having an issue with a plot/character/theme I ‘give’ it to my subconscious to work on overnight while I sleep. It’s amazing how many times I wake up with inspiration and a solution.

6. So…keep a notebook and pen beside the bed, on the desk, in your handbag. WRITE IT DOWN. Thoughts, dreams, questions, ideas – anything that pops into your brain during the quiet time and is there when you wake, or stop daydreaming, always, always, always write it down. This is your gold dust and it is unique to you. It is what makes you a writer.

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