I recently finished a novel. It was a love novel, one of those ones you write because you love the subject or something about it. I love meta-fiction – it’s a meta-fiction novel.
But now that I have finished, what next? I’m now writing another novel, this one may be a series, but we will see.
I’ve come to realise that I missed the love I have for writing and words and sentences. I lost that lovin’ feeling with the publication of my novel, The Neighbour. I got all wound up in the expectations that I put on myself to promote on social media.
But I’ve wound all that back and loving writing again. What do I love? I love that every sentence is an opportunity to convey meaning – and that is simply it. I love sentences.
I love my chair, the blank page, and sentences.
I’m sharing with you my fabulous, and quick – and when I say quick I mean minutes – daily remedies that work for me, I hope they help you too.
These two simple things take a few minutes. For back health, four simple yoga exercises that are wonderful for back pain,and for mental fatigue an easy and quick meditation app.
(Photo credit: Jill Miller)
Lie on back with arms stretched out to the side
Raise right leg until pointing straight up
Move the raised leg left across the body & try to lower to the floor
Keep both shoulders on the floor
Turn your head to the right – hold for 5-20 secs then raise the leg again and lower back straight
Repeat with left leg.
2. ALTERNATE LEG STRETCH
(Photo credit: Yoga Basics)
Sit with right leg straight out in front of you, place the bottom of the left foot against the right thigh.
Slide your hands down your leg as far as you can, curling your spine, then grasp your leg where ever you are at, knee, calf, ankle – hold for a few seconds.
Repeat with other leg. Do both legs three times.
(Photo credit: Blue Osa)
Kneel on the floor
Stretch your right leg out to the right
Keep your left knee directly in line below your left hip and align your right heel with the left knee.
Place your right arm on your right leg
Bend your torso to the right, aiming to put your right ear on your right arm
Lift your left arm over your head, aiming to bring it down to the right and put palms of both hands together ( I did say aiming)
Keep facing forward, and hold it for a few seconds
Repeat on the other side
4 CROSSED KNEE BEND
(Photo credit: Yoga Journal)
Stand, and cross your right ankle over your left. Place toes beside each other
Inhale, then as you bend forward, slowly exhale and bring fingers as close to floor as you can. Let your head hang
Exhale completely, relax abdomen, wait as the abdomen is voluntarily sucked upwards
Straighten and inhale
Repeat on other leg
… and for mental health/fatigue, to take you out of that deep writer-thinking-mode and relax your brain muscles, I use a meditation app on my phone that takes ten minutes.The app is the Head Space app which has the first ten sessions for free so you can try it out. I bought the whole thing and use it most days.
What do you do for writer’s health?
If you don’t know your theme, get to know it. You will be asked about it, best it doesn’t come as a surprise to you – Elizabeth Jolley.
Years ago, I read the above quote from Elizabeth Jolley, and decided to pay special attention to becoming aware of my themes. I thought I knew what my overarching theme was. I thought (loftily) that my themes were the psychology of behaviour with narratives on behavioural theory.
It is often said that theme is difficult to describe, and writers are frequently unaware of just what their themes are. Theme is not story or plot. Theme is the underlying idea, concept, or philosophy in your story. Theme is not what happens in your story, but what your story is about. Theme is often not a choice, especially for fiction writers, but evolves out of a writer’s interests and passions, and, as a result, writers very often – but not always – have the same theme throughout their works.
Now that I’ve completed my third book, it has become clearly apparent that my theme is more tangible, and less lofty, than ‘psychology of behaviour’. I can now be more exact. For some reason not known to me, I write from a male POV and my theme is as simple as crazy men doing weird shit, or, men’s decent into madness.
Knowing your theme can be a useful tool in getting your story finished. If I find I’m wondering what it is I’m actually trying to say, if I’m asking the question, who is this story about? or what is this story about (questions publishers and agents want you to know about your own work) or what message am I trying to get across? Being clear on theme can help answer those questions.
Melissa Donovan says theme can be described as broadly as redemption, sacrifice, betrayal, loyalty, greed, justice, oppression, revenge, and love or they can ask questions or pit two ideas against each other: science vs. faith, good vs. evil, why are we here and what happens when we die?
When I put the question, what do you think your themes are, out to social media, writers were much more specific about their themes:
Kim Swivel: love, bigotry, class, political stupidity, Australian iconography
Anna Spargo-Ryan: Mental illness, family violence, parent-child relationships, substance use, love, loss, food.
Jade Aleesha: My most recent novel explores the power of the media and government to redefine history, and the overlooked role of women in revolution.
Caroline Hutton: Secrecy in families, letting go of old hurts, staying whole in marriage, marital expectations of boundaries vs secrets
Sarah Jansen: Abandonment, the pursuit of happiness, self-reliance, unexpected situations
Sarah Widdup: Relationships, imbalance, expectation, equilibrium
Bianca Nogrady: Family and what we would do for them (or not). Also choice … I’m fascinated by this idea that choice is generally viewed as a good thing in that it gives us a sense of control, that we can always choose between options, however bad those options are. I think there are some choices that we never want to be faced with, and in some situations we would rather have those choices taken away from us.
Eliza Henry Jones: The themes of my writing have always changed to reflect whatever it was I happened to be grappling with at that time in my life. Reading back over (very, very, very poor) novels that I wrote as a teenager is almost like reading a diary. I’ve explored issues of religion, dementia, adoption, substance abuse and parental mental illness. I think what I keep coming back to again and again, though, are themes of grief and letting go.
Fleur Ferris: Online safety, grief, consequence, religious extremism, fanaticism, misuse of power, bullying, identity, relationships/friendships/family. (Not all in the same book…OMG, it doesn’t matter. I’m so miserable!) *rushes to computer and begins writing a romantic comedy.
Robyne Young: Emotional and geographical displacement, punishment, feminism, family.
One of the benefits of knowing your theme means you can look where other writers have explored the same themes with success. Men’s decent into madness threw up the following titles, which also made me aware that, so far, I’ve only found male authors who have approached the same theme, so I’d better get to work!
One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey; Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky; Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad; The Stranger, Albert Camus; Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk; The Shining, Stephen King; King Lear, Shakespeare; Catch-22, Joseph Hellar; Lord of the Flies, William Golding; Shutter Island, Denis Lehane; Hamlet, Shakespeare.
There’s nothing wrong with the word ‘when’, and many many writers, including myself, use it in the way that I’m about to tell you can distance your reader from the action and lose them a little bit; they might start thinking of cats and drop the book and look around for the kitty litter tray and never come back. I’ve just read this sentence at the beginning of my chapter 9:
“When Ulrik breathes in the taste of hot dust, he remembers where he is.” And I’ve edited out two words, ‘when’ and ‘he’. “Ulrik breathes in the taste of hot dust, and remembers where he is.”
The difference is that the word ‘when’ means the action is not happening now, it happened at some time in the past or will happen some time in the future. There’s no urgency to keep reading, it’s not happening right now, and there’s probably no dire consequences bc Ulrik is perfectly fine right now. Taking out that word ‘when’ has dropped the reader right into the action.
The last thing I do before moving on to the next chapter to edit, is read that thing out loud — shut the door and say it loud! — It’s a piece of advice people give you but you never do, right? I started doing it b/c the couple of times I’ve had to record a short story for radio and podcasts, I found that in the act of doing so I picked up so many clunky phrases or yucky sentences. And it’s especially helpful if you’re a fan of sentences that have rhythm and feel good and are nice to listen to. After reading my stories for said radio/podcast I actually changed a lot of words and had to resubmit the written story. If you imagine, while reading, that it is for radio and therefore u need to pronounce clearly, it really hones in on those ugly words – and you never know when, in the future, you might have to read that out loud to someone, so best fix that shit now.