SELF EDITING 101 – Putting on your critic’s hat :)

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So, you’ve been diligently working away on your story and you think it’s just about done. You’ll either think it’s a work of heartbreaking genius or the worst tripe you’ve ever read or written, or if you’re lucky somewhere in between those two extremes. But now what?

Creating new work and redrafting it use different sets of skills. For first drafts we have to show our inner critics the door in order to get anything done at all. Our imaginations need free reign to be as silly or as serious or off track as they need to be.

But then, once we’ve created the bulk of our draft – the chunk of stone our beautiful masterpiece will be sculpted from — the wonderful work of rewriting begins.

First drafts are only the beginning. The real fun starts at rewriting.

Let your new piece rest for a week or two (move onto something else). Then put on your critic’s hat!

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Yes! It’s time to get serious!

First of all is what professionals call THE STRUCTURAL EDIT.

Basically what that means is

THE BIG STUFF!elephant

 

  • Find the HEART of your story (what is the story really about?) and shape the next draft around it. Go deeper into this heart if you can.
  • Think about the STRUCTURE of your story – have you started and ended in the right place. Does it build in a satisfying way? Are you moving the reader between hope and fear?
  • HOOK – have you set up a hook within the first couple of paragraphs?
  • Is your story compelling?
  • Does your story reach a CLIMAX? Is it at the right place – almost at the end?
  • Write a list of all your SCENES – is there any repetition? Do all scenes need to be there? In each scene – get in late and get out early.
  • Check whether you’re writing in scenes, not just telling the story. SHOW mostly, TELL a little bit.
  • What is at STAKE? It must feel vital to the protagonist even if it’s something small.
  • Is there enough CONFLICT? And/or SURPRISE?
  • Your MAIN CHARACTER – Do they make efforts to achieve their goals? Do they ACT in some way? How has their CURSE or CALLING affected them? Do they show both good and bad? How have they CHANGED through the story?3 faces of eve
  • Other characters – have you developed the important ones fully?
  • DIALOGUE – have you included dialogue in your scenes to bring them to life?
  • Does your dialogue demonstrate character and further plot? WARNING – do not use dialogue for info dumps or to relate what happened in a scene we’ve already read.
  • SETTING – have you made the most of your settings to create mood, develop character and reflect emotion, hidden meanings? Specific sensory details?
  • POV and VOICE – have you chosen the right character to focus on? Would it be better from someone else or in 3rd/1stperson?
  • CUT irrelevant passages of description that don’t further the forward movement of your piece. CUT anything that isn’t moving the story forward.

“If you are writing without moving toward an ending, you are probably just piling up information and- it’s all but a dead certainty – being a bore.” Stephen Koch

Office Worker with Mountain of Paperwork

Then, once the big job of the structural edit is done it’s time for the line edit – or in other words –

CHECK THE NITTY GRITTY TOO! 

  • Reshuffle the order of paragraphs so the story makes more sense.
  • Cut any repetition – of words or ideas.
  • Correct any spelling or grammatical errors – read aloud to catch them.
  • Check that your sentences are meaning what you want them to say. Are they clear and easy to follow?
  • Cut almost all adjectives and adverbs and unnecessary speech tags.
  • Use specific nouns and strong verbs instead.
  • In dialogue, sometimes use a character’s actions beside their speech instead of speech tags.
  • Have characters speaking at cross purposes.
  • Do you finish with a strong image or memorable moment? Try ending sooner.

“You should aim for an effect similar to that of the final bars of a symphony. Hearing those, you as a listener know that this is the conclusion, that the work is finished.” H.R.F. Keating

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Once you’ve done all that, and a close proof reading as well for any spelling or grammatical errors, typos or formatting issues, then it’s time to get feedback from someone else, preferably another writer or an editor who’ll help you pin point things you may have missed.

Hope that helps!

If you’ve got a manuscript well under way and would like some advice on how to progress it further towards publication standard, come along to the next RELAX AND WRITE RETREAT! November 8 – 10 at Burleigh Heads QLD. This retreat has two streams one for Nanowrimo folk writing up a storm, the other for those with work almost completed looking for some feedback and help redrafting. See HERE for more details and HERE to secure your place.

And if you’d just like to get in touch, would like to get more info or sign up to my email list for lots of hints and tips and writing opportunities then CONTACT ME!

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Let me know how you go with your rewriting. Which do you prefer, first drafts or rewriting? I used to love first drafts much more but now I’m a fan of the fun of rewriting too 🙂

Take care and happy writing!

lots of love

Edwina

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MANY FINGERS MANY PIES Or How to create multiple income streams to support your writing habit.

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We all know the dream – write a fabulous book and start a bidding war, preferably in American dollars. Sell gazillions of copies worldwide and become an international bestseller. Do book tours with mile-long signing queues in New York. Sell the movie rights. Go bigger than JK Rowling and Liane Moriarty combined. Wonder if it should be Meryl Streep or Cher who plays you in the bio pic of your life; and if you really want plastic dolls of yourself.

But wait! You’ve written your fabulous book, you know it’s fabulous because many people have told you so, just not the right ones. Not the ones who could start your high-flying trajectory. You’ve sent your book out to every publisher in the known world, and it still hasn’t found a home. Or maybe it has, just not with a big publisher. Your book has done its best, but the massive royalty cheques have failed to materialise. You feel as if it’s all been for nothing. But the thought of only doing your day job for the rest of your life makes you feel like running off the nearest cliff. You just want to write stories.

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Don’t despair. You’re not alone. You’re a writer.

Unfortunately, the dream is only a reality for a miniscule percentage of writers – the few who shoot up like lucky stars. For the rest of us the trajectory is much slower and not nearly as dramatic. It doesn’t make us lesser writers than those who become overnight successes.

The trick is to keep writing, no matter what. And to find ways to make money related to writing. It’s extremely difficult to do a full-time job, cook dinner, put the kids to bed and want to do anything except stare at the telly. It’s vital to find ways to pay the bills without draining all your energy and creativity. But how?

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Writers and creative thinkers are in demand. People will pay good money for your skills. You can spend each day writing or talking about writing and be paid for it. This also takes time and effort, but it’s worth it if your days are filled with words and the fun of playing in your imagination.

Recently, I was talking to an artist friend who’s been painting since his teens. Even though he’s not famous, he’s making a living too – the same way I do— Many Fingers Many Pies! We each have a number of small contract jobs. He teaches art; I teach writing. He does people’s gardens and runs design courses. I write for online magazines, do blogs, run retreats, edit other people’s work and rework every story idea of my own across multiple genres.

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In a recent interview on Oprah’s podcast channel, Liz Gilbert referred to people who thrive on working this way as hummingbirds. I like the idea of flitting between lots of different flowers, cross-pollinating and fertilising, all while filling up my own tank.

So, if the old 9 to 5 isn’t for you and you’d love to discover many ways to make money doing what you love, then join me at my Building a Career as Writer workshop at QWC on July 13. Making money from your writing skills can be easy and fun!

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Come along and find out how.

Contact me if you’d like more hints and tips and advice on the writing life and if a writing retreat on beautiful Magnetic Island sounds like just the ticket, then HURRY and CONTACT ME NOW to secure one of the last available spots .

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Put yourself in this picture : )

Lots of love

Edwina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 SENTENCE STORY STARTER!

The other day I dug through my creative writing files – the old fashioned sort –preparing for a workshop I was presenting for the Brisbane Writers Group, and found this fun exercise. It  took me a long time to find, I have a lot of files!woman with endless files

I first did the exercise at a workshop by the respected Australian author Rodney Hall (he won the Miles Franklin twice!) at the QLD Writers Centre well over a decade ago now. It was one of the best I’ve ever attended.

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This exercise is a simple way to start a story.

But more that, it demonstrates just how useful setting and description can be when developing the tone of a piece and even in developing character. It’s also great for showing how much impact a little repetition can have in your writing. Sound good?

Let’s do it! Get your writing tools ready!

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FIRST – Envision a scene about two people (Person A and Person B) meeting again after a long period. Anywhere, any time, any people.

For each of the following prompts write one sentence without deliberately connecting them.

  1. Weather – describe the weather

 

  1. Object – describe an object in the environment – a non-living thing

 

  1. Person A – focus on an item of clothing they’re wearing – does it do something?

 

  1. Weather – describe the weather again

 

  1. A sound – not speech

 

  1. Mood – return to the object and show it reflecting the mood of the scene

 

  1. Person A has first glimpse of Person B

 

  1. Look at 5 and repeat the sound

 

  1. Look at 3 – what is the item of clothing doing now?

 

  1. Person A says something surprising

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How did you go? Did you come up with something you weren’t expecting that was even just a little bit poetic? I hope so! It’s a great way to start a story or just get those writing juices flowing for the day.

Have you got a favourite writing prompt? I’m always looking for new ideas for my workshops so please do share in the comments.

Always looking for prompts and writing hints and tips yourself? JOIN MY LIST.

The last two spots are still available for my upcoming Magnetic Island Relax and Write Retreat June 21 -23. CONTACT ME for more information.

And last of all, I have a couple of new workshops coming up.

7 JULY at the CYA CONFERENCE which is now including a special day – WRITING FOR ALL THE MARKETS – for writers of crossover fiction and/or adults in its program. Join me for an action-packed life writing workshop!

13 JULY at the QLD WRITERS CENTRE – come along to BUILDING YOUR CAREER AS A WRITER – or as I like to call it, Many Fingers, Many Pies. This is a fun-filled creative exploration of ways to make money as a writer. We all need to make a living and finding ways to pay the bills that align with our writing dreams isn’t as hard as you may think. Come along for some brainstorming, planning and creative collaging on ways to make money from your writing skills. This afternoon workshop is being live-streamed for regional writers. Check it out.

Good luck with all your writing projects. Let me know how you go with the 10 Sentence Story starter. Hope you have fun with it!

Lots of love,

Edwina xx

CREATING SPACE FOR YOUR WRITING

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Are you lucky if you get a corner of the kitchen table to write on? Do you have to squeeze your writing in between all the things you have to do to look after everyone else and pay the bills?

You’re not alone!

Whole books can be written on kitchen tables between shifts and child care, but let’s face it – not very many.

Women writers deserve time and space to write. It can be difficult to achieve when working and with a young family to care for, but it can be done!

When I first started writing in earnest back in 2002, I wrote sitting at a corner of the kitchen table. But that was pretty messy.  Then I found a spot in the hallway, right at the end, where I could squeeze in a tiny desk and a chair and my computer. It felt like a huge achievement and a wonderful space of my own.

2db387c51ec6dac579c24f3a4c7323ccI worked part time and had two children under five, but on the days I wasn’t at work and the kids were down for their naps, I wrote like a fury! I was crazy with stories back then shouting at me to be told. I couldn’t wait to get to my desk and madly type all the stories and plot turns that I’d been thinking about the whole day.

Often at night as I read the children their bedtime story, I’d find myself reciting the stories in my head rather than the book we were reading. Let’s just say the words didn’t match the pictures!

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I’m sure I looked just like that 😀

For the last several years though, I’ve taken up a whole lot of space in the lounge room. I put a couple of desks in one corner to create my own L shaped desk, created semi-walls around me with bookshelves, and a friend found an Indian screen that closed off the other side. I may not have a door I can close, but when I’m in my little writing nook it feels private and, most importantly, it’s a safe space where I can write and create.

These days, it’s where I spend most of my time. I’ve worked hard so that the work I now do is all related to the writing I love. My children are both young adults and can take care of themselves. Writing time is mine to claim.

Edwina's Writing space

But it isn’t just the physical space for writing that you need, it’s the time!

How do you find space in your busy life for your writing?

My friend Helena, likes to set her alarm and wake up at 4, sit up in bed with her coffee and write for a few hours before her children wake up and the day begins. She’s made of tough stuff.

Night owls stay awake after the children have fallen asleep and write into the wee hours.

Other writers I know give themselves one day a week where the children go to Grandma. That day they sit and write like bullet trains.

It helps if you can train yourself to ignore the housework. A messy house is the sign of a creative person!

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Though I do find washing a good way to make sure I leave the computer and have a stretch before immersing myself in work again.

What I learnt from my training as a new writer with small children, is that you can accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. The pressure of a very limited time frame forces you to pump out the words as fast as you can without being overly fussy about whether they’re the right ones. That can always be fixed later.

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Where in your day can you find an hour, or even half an hour? Ten minutes?

Any amount of time you spend doing what you love, what your heart desires is time well spent. And all those little bits add up.

That year I first started writing during my kid’s hour-long nap time, I finished the draft of a 100 000 word novel.

Great things can be achieved in small bursts. People who’ve attended my writing workshops know just how much you can write in as little as five minutes.

It can be done!

Claim yourself a corner that is yours, just yours. For writing.

Then figure out how you can steal an hour, half an hour or even a few minutes from your day to spend doing your writing. Get up half and hour earlier. Don’t watch the news, write instead. Write during your lunch hour. During nap time. Before bedtime. After.

Anytime you can find for yourself is perfect.

How do you create space for your writing? Have you made yourself a special corner to write in? How do you find time to write in your busy days?

Share your ideas in the comments. All hints and tips are very welcome!

Good luck finding space for your writing this week!

Lots of love,
Edwina xx

 

 

 

 

FREE MEMOIR WORKSHOP IN TOWNSVILLE! YAY!

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Yes! Not long now and I’m flying up to Townsville for the Queensland Writers Centre to facilitate a day-long workshop on using the techniques of fiction to bring your memoir to life. And best of all, it’s FREE!

My father’s family is from far north Queensland, so I always enjoy travelling up to the cane fields, tropical sunshine and reef. Such a beautiful part of the world where wonderful people somehow manage to thrive in all that heat.

You can register HERE

WHEN?

Sat., 11 May 2019

10:30 am – 4:30 pm AEST

WHERE?

Aitkinvale Library

4 Petunia Street

Aikenvale

Townsville, QLD 4814

See the map HERE

So if you have a story from your life you’re itching to tell, come along and write up a storm!

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A full day workshop for FREE! YIPPEE!

Keen writers and beginners all welcome.

Book HERE

Hope to see you there 🙂

Edwina x

SUSPENSE = HOPE + FEAR

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As far back as Aristotle and the very first plays, story tellers have known that the secret to keeping your audience on the edge of their seats, or readers turning pages, is to keep them in a state of tension.

As story tellers it’s our job to manipulate our audience’s emotions. To keep them moving between hope and fear, relief and anxiety, joy and despair.

Writers can learn from sports, yes, even football! The best games have suspense in buckets – that’s why watching footy on a Friday night is so appealing to most people. Audiences and readers want in story what they avoid at all cost in life – conflict, anxiety, opposition and tension.

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However, the battle for the win is even more gratifying when the game is close. Games won by one point in the final minute keep us on the edge, enduring and enjoying a tension that is almost uncomfortable, right up until the end. So much better than a game where right from the first ten minutes we know it’s a walk over.

It’s the same with story. If a protagonist too easily achieves their goals, then where’s the drama? Where’s the fun of all those uncomfortable emotions?

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The opposition to a character’s goals have to be almost insurmountable. The protagonist needs to do her very best, make plans and execute them, but then fail or be thwarted until that very last minute – maybe even just as the final bell is ringing. Maybe all her attempts will only make things worse. Maybe self-sabotage will undermine her at a key point, when finally everything seemed to be flowing her way. little girl reading

As writers we want the reader to call out “No!” then turn the page to see what happens next, hoping against hope that she’ll somehow dig herself out of the hole she’s created.

It’s that movement between hope and fear that writers need to keep in mind as they shape their stories. If not in the first draft, then definitely in the second.

Check each scene. Is there some sort of conflict? What is the outcome of this conflict? Are we led to believe the character can achieve her goal, which seems or paramount importance to her whether it’s life-threatening or not? Or are we terrified that she’ll never get what she wants?

Does it seem like she’ll finally find her missing child? Or does it appear obvious that all she’ll ever find is bones?

Will that boil in the middle of her forehead heal before the big date? Or will boils spread all over her face and make her a leper?

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Every scene, if not every page, should play its part in this dance between hope and fear, keeping readers anxiously turning pages, even in the bath.

Examine stories you love. How has the writer choreographed this dance? Look for conflict. In the very best novels and screenplays, conflict will be evident in almost every page, in every interaction between characters. Even a character’s inner dialogue can involve conflict, the fight between desire and better judgement.

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 Manchester by the Sea by Kenneth Lonergan is a harrowing and deeply moving film that is a wonderful example of how conflict can be used to intensify every scene. In a scene already filled with drama, when a young mother is being put into an ambulance the trolley doesn’t work properly, making an already unbearable moment excruciating.

Conflict can come from others, ourselves, the environment, government or police, even furniture. Throw it in wherever you can and watch your story bloom. Manage the readers’ emotions, keep them swinging between hope and fear and you’re on your way to writing something no reader can put down.

Keep them up at night, make them laugh and make them cry. Have fun doing it.

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How do you ramp up conflict in your stories? How do you move readers between hope and fear? I’d love to hear your ideas!

If you found these tips useful you can sign up to my newsletter for regular hints and tips and opportunities HERE

And if you’d like a whole weekend of writing exercises and advice then check out my next retreat HERE – but hurry only two places still available!

Lots of love,

Edwina xx

 

 

 

 

 

PROCRASTINATION, PERFECTIONISM AND A HARSH INNER CRITIC: The Enemies of Writing and How to Defeat Them!

Woman scrubbingDo you put off writing until after the whole house is cleaned, including sorting out those kitchen cupboards and scrubbing the bathroom tiles with a toothbrush? Do you start writing but then never get very far past the first paragraph because you can’t get it quite right and that first sentence is so sucky? Do you feel too inadequate to even start writing, even though you’ve secretly wanted to all your life? Or do you finally write something, but then tear it to shreds and bin it before it’s even had a chance to breathe?

Don’t worry, you’re certainly not alone. Every writer faces these demons – the holy trinity of FEAR. That’s really what these deadly (well to your writing anyway) sins boil down to – plain old boring fear.

 Procrastination

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Procrastination is a protective device. If you put something off long enough, you’ll never have to write it, or you’ll have being rushed as an excuse for when you decide that it’s utter crap and that you’re as talentless as you thought. If that sounds like you, then your procrastination is really harsh inner critic lurking in the background just waiting for you to finish the housework and probably complaining about how you’re doing it too – look there’s a spot you missed!

But hang on a minute, what if it’s not crap? What if actually for a first draft it’s pretty damned good? What if writing it was the most fun you’ve had in ages? Certainly a whole lot more fun than cleaning the bathroom.

Perfectionism

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Perfectionism won’t ever let you finish anything. Because if it’s not perfect, and how actually can anything be, then it’s not any good at all. That first sentence demands to be rewritten a hundred times, so you never get any further into your story. Even if you do get all the way through, perfectionism won’t ever let you submit it anywhere because it’s never quite right. Never quite good enough.

Guess what? Perfectionism is just another protection device – protecting you from the criticism of others while you beat yourself up with your own, much harsher, criticism. It’s another face of that horrid inner critic trying to stop you making a fool of yourself.

Well thanks, but no thanks. Because nothing is ever really perfect. Ask any writer, any artist. There’s always something you can fix or change, even with published work. At some point though, you just have to let it go. Step back and send it out into the world.

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“Feel the fear and do it anyway,” as Susan Jeffers famously said in her book of the same name.

Fear used to serve us well. When we lived in caves, fear told us to stay away from that cave where the beast lived and not to eat that berry that made Aunty so sick. But these days most of our fears have become internalised and turn into anxiety. It’s not really our friend any more.

 

Fear has many faces. Most horribly it is the face of our harsh inner critic.

 

Your Inner Critic and how to tame it.

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Like fire, inner critics are wonderful servants but terrible masters. To write successfully, critics must be tamed and trained and forced to play nicely with our delicate creator selves in order to make our writing the best it can be. The craft of writing demands a domesticated critic to edit our messy first drafts, but that’s later. First, we have to get that messy first draft written.

Inner critics can be fatal to writing. First drafts need freedom – when we create we’re playing and mucking around, making stuff up. We don’t need a nasty critic hanging over our shoulder whispering abuse. I like to send mine from the room!

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, Mary Philbin, Lon Chaney, 1925

It helps to know the face of your enemy.

rabid_squirrel_postcard-r5105695b7151488c9754e7b5013d2197_vgbaq_8byvr_307One writer described her critic as rabid squirrels in camouflage gear. Another described his as a giant, grumpy, old geezer. It could be a mean older sister, or a stern father who thinks doing anything creative is a waste of time. Mine looks like my third-grade teacher. A nun in a habit. With a ruler. She always liked to pull me down a peg or two.

Here’s a writing exercise to help identify and defeat your critic.

 

WRITE: Your Inner Critic

Set your timer for ten minutes and write about your inner critic.

Was it your mum who was always finding fault, or was it that awful teacher in high school who tore your short story to pieces in front of the class?smoking nuns

Whether your critic is based on a real person or is a monster from nightmares, a dragon with gnashing teeth dripping with blood, get it down on paper. If there is a specific incident you remember, or a particularly bad attack from your critic, then write that down too. Get into the meaty details. Take more time if you need to. If you’d like to, draw a picture. What you do with this picture is up to you. You can burn it, or shred it, or put a big red cross through it, but perhaps if it’s your mum maybe just stick a bit of plaster over her mouth!

Once you have this clear picture in mind you can begin to train your critic. You can train them to leave the room. Trick the squirrels with some peanuts and tempt them into another room while you get a first draft done. Tell the old fart you’ll let him have his turn in a while, after you’ve written your five hundred words for the day. Take the ruler out of the nun’s hand and send her to confession for the few hours you have available for writing. If they know they’ll be allowed back later, they will, most likely, go happily. If they start skulking back, however, then gently remind them that this time is yours, they’ll be welcome in a while.

In my workshops, retreats and even at the creative writing classes I teach at university, I always start with a guided relaxation to help participants send that critic from the room. I’ve found the results to be outstanding.

Try it for yourself!

RELAX: Meditation for removing your inner critic

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Sit and breathe deeply, bringing your attention inwards, then slowly relax your whole body. Once you’re relaxed, visualise your critic and imagine sending them from the room. I like to send them to the nearest body of water and drop them in there. Don’t worry they always find their way back in time for the next draft!

I’m working on a recording of the guided meditation I use in workshops. If you’d like to be kept in the loop and be one of the first to use it then click HERE.

Once you’ve sent your critic away, then I like to set a timer. 10 minutes, half an hour. It helps give me that sense of urgency procrastinators thrive on (procrastinator – who me?). Then WRITE! Write like a fury. Write like you’ve only got 10 minutes until the world ends and you’ve just got to get your story down. Spelling and punctuation don’t matter. Just go where your brain flow takes you. Follow tangents, explore weird things that pop up. Let the story show you where it wants to go.

Nothing matters in that first draft except being in the flow and trusting your own creativity. Remember – Writing is fun! Creating is playing. Take all the pressure off and enjoy yourself mucking around with words and making up stories.

 Let go and let the words flow!

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Let me know how you go. Did these techniques work for you? What other tricks do you know forgetting those first drafts done? Are you a procrastinator or a perfectionist – or both. What does your inner critic look like?

If you’d like to experience just how freeing doing a guided relaxation and meditation can be for liberating your creativity and getting you writing, then please contact me HERE for information about my upcoming RETREATS.

Or sign on HERE to get regular updates and hints and tips for your writing.

GOOD LUCK taming those critics.

Happy writing!

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Lots of love,

Edwina xx