mind stretch

Warm up exercises for a writing mind: how to warm-up before a writing session

A marathon runner doesn’t merely put on her shoes and run 26 miles… a marathon runner takes time to warm up — she does “stretches” and probably scoffs a banana and sips water before she sets out on her endurance event. She checks her laces are tight and that she has all her gear with her… she tells her family where she is going (if she’s on a training run) and tells them when she’s due back… and when she’s sure she’s ready to go, she starts at a gentle pace to be sure all her joints & tendons are relaxed and painless. It takes a mile or two before she gets “into her stride.”

And it’s the same for you, as a writer. If you are venturing into novel writing, aiming for at least 50,000 words, maybe writing 2,000 words a day, it’s best to do your stretches before you head into the long endurance event… it’s best to start at a gentle pace, so you’re sure all your “joints and tendons” are relaxed before you get into a stride. And while all this sounds metaphorical — because it is 😊 — don’t forget that writing (and it’s brainier sister ideation) are both profoundly grueling & exhausting and they’re also truly physical activities — and so you’ll feel totally depleted after a long writing “session.” 


So here are a few warm up exercises to energize your uphill slog:

1: strengthen your flexors

Easy one this: there are 170,000 words in the English language: a high school student will recognize (and explain the meaning of) between 10,000 and 12,000 words. This increases to around 17,000 as a college student and around 20,000 as a senior. It means we use just a tiny portion of all available words.  As a writer, you owe it to yourself and your audience to be a logophile. And to always be on the lookout for new and clever ways to explain yourself. Plus, the new words you use don’t even have to be sesquipedalian! Some very simple (and useful) words may be small but mysterious. To help me learn new words, some mornings I use:


Or perhaps (for a change, because change is good) I use:


Hint: To maximize retention of the new word you’ve discovered, be sure to say it out loud several times and try to find a sentence in which it can be used

The Go Gos
The Go Gos

2: prepare your propulsive cadences

Long-distance writing (like long-distance running) is about finding a rhythm. Some call it “getting into the groove.”  So, here’s an easy way to prepare your syncopation.  Have you already prepared a mix-tape of your favorite dynamical sounds?  (If not, then I eagerly suggest you do that right away) but let’s say you have a playlist on Spotify or elsewhere … select one of your “get up and go” songs (from the various sounds on your mix) and type in the song title and perhaps artist search for the lyrics. So, for example, if you enjoy “Get Up and Go” by the Go-Gos in the morning (and why not?) go find the lyrics and you’ll perhaps choose two lines that “mean” something to you right away. So, after I just searched for the Go-Gos song I  saw this:

 “the words you say don’t mean a thing/ They fly right by my eyes

It’s a line of eight beats, followed by six beats

Now I will try to “think up” two comparable lines of my own, one with 8 beats and the other with 6, perhaps taking the idea of “flying words” a little bit further than the Go Go’s did… so here goes my attempt:

the voice within my head buzzes / bites me like a sawfly…” 

Of course, I try to generate strong emotions in my little rhyme (I didn’t just write gobbledygook) and maybe I hinted at conflict (the bite and the buzz) — but let’s remember that this is just a “stretching exercise.” It took me about 10 minutes to do, by the way and I ought to say that if it goes on any longer, it won’t be an exercise… it will be a full-blown session. I must also tell you that it may take a little longer to set up the exercise the first time you do it, but once you start using it regularly, it will be easy (and fun) and may will produce some fancy lines to share on your socials

(with thanks to songwriters: Charlotte Caffey / Jane Wiedlin for the little snippet above)

real tea

3: stretch your improvisational hamstrings

Improvisation is a key skill for a writer. How does your spontaneity feel today? Some days my spontaneity feels flat. Other days my spontaneity feels bright. How do you fire-up your originative processes on flat days? Well, the best thing you can do is take your brain away from words & writing for at least ten minutes (no more than twenty).

Sometimes I do real physical stretches on my yoga mat, or I do ten minutes on my rowing machine (cardio is good for flexing a tired brain.) Try a treadmill or an exercise bike if you have one. I often take time to fix a hot drink (I make coffee the “old way” by grinding beans and putting a pot on the stove…) I only do it the lengthy way because it requires mental effort and tests my senses and coordination. Or I make a pot of tea (using leaves and a proper teapot).

I might tidy up a bit of art I had been working on the previous evening, but whatever I do, I do it for ten minutes, and they are ten minutes that are away from keyboards, screens, words and writing.

marketing dept dictionary

Interestingly, and I suppose this is a bit counter-intuitive, I have found that the more “routine” I make this ten-minute “wordless creative blip” — the more it helps my synapses to be yielding & amenable, flexible and compliant. I think it’s because making coffee or spending time on the yoga mat helps me focus on smelling, touching, tasting, seeing, hearing, and coordinating with parts of my body I won’t use while I’m writing (that is, I’ll be in contact with all my senses) — which, of course, will help me write more meaningfully and more imaginatively once the working day starts.

rubberband ball

Just one last thought: “It always seems impossible until it’s done…” Nelson Mandela

Got your own stretches? Tweet @neilmach

Words: @neilmach 2021 ©

Neil Mach is the author of “So You Want to Write Fantasy?” and host of the Myth & Magic fantasy writer’s podcast

Magical Thinking

What is magical thinking? And how can you use it in your fiction?

How to illustrate superstitious thinking in your fiction

Magical thinking is the belief that events are connected to each other even though there is no plausible link between them, except for some curious and inexplicable supernatural phenomenon.

Although most theorists think that magical thinking is irrational, the belief that one’s thoughts by themselves can produce effects in the outside world… or that a thought on its own can somehow correspond to something (usually bad) that happens, is a powerful and compelling assumption that most of us have, at some point in our lives, succumbed to.

Knock on wood

For example, if you’ve ever said, “I don’t want to tempt fate” or you have casually flicked a coin into a “wishing well” or you used a euphemism for death to avoid conjuring it, or you “knocked on wood” after making a favorable prediction, then you are guilty (like all of us) of magical thinking

Lines like “I don’t want to tempt fate” and “touch wood” are mystical phrases that we use all the time in everyday life.

magical thinking

I think we’re drawn to magical thinking because — deep down — we’re still four years old, and we hold-onto that nicer time in our life when we utilized make-believe & fantasy to help us understand very tricky and complicated things: so we still believe in magic because it helps us understand problems that we can’t deal with or grasp easily — for example, we believe in the magic of special places (like churches, old stones or graveyards), we believe in the magic of special people (like priests, fortune-tellers, mentalists, or aromatherapists,) we believe in the magic of coincidences (thinking about somebody and then they call us on the phone or they turn a corner) and we believe in the magic of serendipity (solving problems by so-called lateral thinking)  and the magic of good fortune (if you blow on a dice, it will roll the number you wished for.)  It seems that we wander through this world with our kindergarten mind still open to magical thinking… we explore with the willingness of a child.

Magical Wish fulfillment

If you want to introduce an element of magical thinking into your writing, I suggest that you blur the boundaries between magic, science, and religion in your story. If you are describing something technical, give your technical object a dash of sentience, if you are describing something magical in your story, make it sound sound plausibly mechanical, and if you are describing something that’s spiritual in your story, make it sound pragmatic and tangible. Once the boundaries are properly blurred, you will find that anything can happen in your plot and, actually, the blurred lines will become your plot-drivers.

When using elements of magical thinking in your fiction, try to describe a character’s sense of joy when his/her magical thinking comes true, and their sense of loss when it does not. Also, do your best to describe a person’s everyday struggles with life and how they deal with challenges by using magical thinking. Also consider and explore the argument that if a person believes in something strongly enough, then that thing will happen.

Also, try using lots of

  • Symbolism
  • Imagery 
  • Ingenious metaphors

Good luck with your magical thinking. Please let me know how your fiction project goes. Share your thoughts on twitter @neilmach

Neil Mach is author of “So You Want to Write Fantasy?” and host of the Myth & Magic fantasy writer’s podcast.

Writers: dealing with the confidence crisis #selfesteem #selfconfidence #writingwithconfidence

Writers: dealing with a confidence crisis

Dealing with criticism (you can sweeten it by calling it feedback, comments, or impressions if you want… but they all amount to the same thing: disapproval) is never an easy thing because it can poison your soul and destroy what you love most: your creativity.

Plain truth sugar coated

The reason criticism hurts so much is that an artist puts his or her own identity in their representation or interpretation, so that a casually given two-star review or a disposable hurtful comment on a social network can feel like an attack on your unique character. It feels personal because it is personal. It’s as rude as saying you have an enormous nose. Except it’s actually worse than that: because the artist has put themselves (their innards) on the line for that piece of writing… they labored for their artistic creation and they made themselves vulnerable — they revealed themselves — just to guide, help, or entertain those weaselly critics.

The writers knew from the start that by revealing their sensibilities and conceptions, they would face criticism, because that is the transactional nature of art, but when criticism arrives (as surely it must) it will be a demoralizing experience that might lead to a period of self-examination, self-discipline, and even self-persecution. Where does this take an artist? It takes the artist into a place of meanspiritedness (for his neighbour) or worse-still, into a period of self-inflicted demotivation.

the transactional nature of art

How does a writer deal with a confidence crisis?

We could take a lesson from Mozart who said, “I pay no attention whatever to anybody’s praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings...”

And that’s quite a good place to start. But here are a few tips that go a little deeper.

Self-confidence doesn’t come free with oxygen. It has to be earned. As an artist, you must refill the confidence-cup every day. How? By performing better (in your own eyes) that’s how! — and when you perform better in your own eyes, you’ll know it! Because you’ll feel the pleasure inside your heart. You will know when you have done well because intuition will tell you so. How can I be so sure of this? Because that’s how we all work. It’s a natural human sensation.

hesitation goblin

But beware the little seed of doubt that is laid by something I call the hesitation-goblin.

The nasty little hesitation-goblin hides a seed in the back of your mind where you don’t notice it at first. And in the darkness the seed grows into something that’s quite difficult to cut down. Before you know it, you have a fully developed confidence crisis blooming inside your brain and what happens then? I’ll tell you what happens: Some mouthy gadfly comes along and drops a flipping-great wodge of smelly slurry all over your precious creation. What did they do? They fertilized the seed of doubt didn’t they? They fertilized the seed of doubt that was already growing in your mind.

So the best news is that you can forgive all the critics, even the prominent critics, and all the naysayers, and all the carpers too, because it’s not their fault. All they did (the nasty, vapid, dross-wits that they are) was to re-vegetate your own secret misgivings by pouring manure all over the seed!

So, first, you must remove the critics from this feedback loop. Turn your back on their weasel words. The next thing to do is to take back control of your honest writing… that way, you’ll ward-off the pesky hesitation-goblins. But how do you do this?

  • Write about things that excite you
  • Write directly (and only) from your heart
  • Write what you feel
  • Write about what is activating you right now. Find the trigger, then release the energy
  • Write when your heart is full of ideas
  • Write without self-judgment, discover your own solutions
  • Avoid fixing and proofreading as you go along (wait a few days before proofreading for grammar, punctuation, and formatting, for example) this allows you to enjoy the free spirit of writing
  • Be impish, be feisty, be impetuous. Write with gusto
  • Be brave enough to dig deep. Gone deep already? Go deeper!
  • Write every day… write big, write small, write long, write short… but above all write passionately

You have enemies? Good.
That means you’ve stood for something…

― Winston Churchill

Good luck! And I wish you lots of happy creative writing! Thoughts or comments? tweet me @neilmach

Words: @neilmach 2021 ©

Neil Mach is author of “So You Want to Write Fantasy?” and host of the Myth & Magic fantasy writer’s podcast.

dealing with creative blockage

Dealing with the Ingenuity Jam

And: 7 tips for dealing with creative blockage

Novelists talk about “hitting the wall” and suffering “Writer’s Block” and I hope you haven’t come across these things yet if working on your NaNoWriMo 2020 project, but I think writers are wrong to think it’s their writing that somehow got stuck or log-jammed or gummed-up — it’s not the words, anyone can write a jumble of words that will ultimately make a 50 thousand word book — a computer can readily do it these days… no, it is a blockage in your imagination that has created the delay… it is not the diligent effort of writing that has become a burdensome task, but a lack of brilliance in your conceptualisation.

At the beginning you had a great idea, a wonderful concept, and an unbeatable design template, but after 10,000 words, or maybe 20,000 in your case, you lost your vision! Your mental image is not as good as when you started… it is your inventiveness and ingenuity that hit a wall, not the tap-tapitty-tap-tap of your fingertips on the keyboard.

So how do you revitalize your imagination?

Here are seven tips for dealing with creative blockage:

1: Take a trip into your world. In this thought experiment, you will be a visitor to the world you have created. So go to a scene (one you’ve already written) and look around. What do you see? Who do you meet? Who most interests you, and why? What do you like? What don’t you like? When you have finished your visit, go home (come back to the here and now) and write-up your experiences and report as if you are a journalist.

2: Seek the novelty of creation. Go visit DeviantArt and tap in a criteria into their search tool. I suggest you search under the name of your character or a word from the title of your book, or a spell or tool your hero uses. See what other creative minds are doing with that word.

3: Alter your pondering habits. You often hear entrepreneurs saying things like “let’s approach this from another direction” or “let’s see this from a different perspective” and that’s because they are “seeing” the project through the eyes of a creator / developer. They know they will need to see the concept through the eyes of a customer, so they tend to re-orientate their perspectives to come up with fresh ideas. Now, it would be nice to share ideas with your clients (those are your readers, if you are a novelist) but I don’t know if you would be brave enough to do this at an early stage in the development of your artwork (artists rarely like to have their work seen until it’s fully “done” — I know I don’t!) But you could get into the head of a potential reader, right? Do that now. Become a reader and ask some basics: where is this story going? Should the main character change? What do I like about the story so far? What would keep me reading? What would make me leave this book? What would make me cry? What would make me happy? What would make me scream? What would make me so excited I want to tell the world about this book?

4: Focus your creative energies. You’re writing a lot. That’s good. But it’s not the only creative thing you do, is it? You are a word maker, yes, so why not scribble some words? Get yourself a new ink pen (see my report here) and write some notes by hand. Use your ink pen to start (and keep) an “ideas” notebook, where you jot down things that come to mind.

Make a deck of cards, 52 would be desirable but twenty will do (make it an even number) one for each character / and or item or location in your story (like a custom Tarot set). Try to draw a picture on each. Add as much (or as little) decoration as you’d like. Once done, divide the deck into four suits: two good /bad quarters, then two slightly less good/bad quarters. You will make moral and reflective judgments. You could then play with your Tarot cards too. Shuffle them and deal six. What happened?

5: Develop imagination in other ways. Have you already completed your playlist for your project? (Recommended by NaNoWriMo). If you add your playlist to Spotify or Soundcloud (recommended) you are making a public statement. That’s good, it means you are making a commitment to your imagination. These will be songs / pieces of music that have inspired (or will inspire) your story. Also, another thing, have you already started your “Mood Board” on Pinterest? If not, get that started too. If you have done both these things already, take time-out to update them.

6: Allow stillness into your life. Have you given yourself sufficient quiet time? How can you expect the most complicated regions of your brain to function effectively if you don’t give them room to breathe? I don’t require you to meditate by candlelight in a yoga position (you can if it helps) but, on the other hand, I strongly suggest you put aside at least twenty minutes a day for “quiet time” when you deliberately shut-out the noise of the world (no phone, no interruptions) and let the stillness feed your spirit (and therefore your creativity). I know this is difficult in a modern world, and perhaps even more tough right now in 2020 (you might need noise-cancelling headphones) but it is a discipline that I am sure will offer you great benefits. Do it now. Slot stillness into your schedule.

7: Invest in creative play. Children have natural imaginations and are not defeated by the limitations of science, common sense, and rationality. But how do we get our vivid childhood imagination back? Well, a good way is to play. Play is an important part of the creative process, and sometimes we forget how crucial it is. So head over to a major e-commerce site (there are several to choose from) and buy yourself a gift… go ahead, you deserve it. You’re doing great. Here are the best:

  • Paper making kit (come on, you gotta get this if you’re a writer!)
  • Modelling clay kit
  • Make your own bath bomb kit
  • Decorate your own water bottle
  • Pom-pom making kit
  • Kit to make hand puppets
  • Mini kit to make animal candles
  • Kit to make balloon animals

Got any tips, advice, examples or suggestions? Tweet me @neilmach

My NaNoWriMo Profile here: https://nanowrimo.org/participants/neil_mach

And keep your ‘lil words rolling in! Good luck with your novel.
Keep your imagination healthy!

Neil Mach is author of “So You Want to Write Fantasy?” and host of the Myth & Magic fantasy writer’s podcast.

Writing the death of a character without shtick and cliché

or: how to kill a character in a way that will break your reader’s heart

Sooner or later you will get to the point where you have to write a purpose-filled death for one of your main characters.

This will be a character that you and your readership will already have built a successful relationship with (so the death will come as a shock). You’ll want to make sure you pick the right time and place for such a momentous milestone.

But be aware that this death will not be over in a chapter. And will take a while to build. There will be consequences (the five stages of grief, for example) and there will be an accumulation of events. The story will build-up to the moment and rumble on afterwards.

Note, also, that the path to the death scene might not be a slow decline for your character, but rather an ascendant (perhaps transcendent) climb to what you might call the pyramid of martyrdom, where the sacrifice is the pinnacle of the character’s sum achievement and worth in your story.

Ask yourself these key questions. What does your character:

  • Most fear?
  • Stand for?
  • Stand against?
  • Most love?
  • Excel at?
  • Symbolize?

Also, think about this: how would your character want to be commemorated? Memorialised?

Now set your mind against all these possibilities and think of the worst possible outcomes for your hero by turning things completely around and switching things on their head (this will also help you to show-not-tell).


The hero fears spiders? Getting attacked by a multitude of giant spiders is too easy. What about this? The hero has to save a spider, but this triggers an early death (perhaps squished by a mutant fly)

The hero stands for honesty? The hero is tried and executed for telling lies is too easy. What about this? The character has to defend a known liar out of compassion / duty, but this causes a fall (the liar survives) and the hero suffers a wretched death

The hero opposes all forms of bullying? Attacked by a notorious bully and beaten to pulp is too easy. What about this? The hero has to form an alliance with a notorious thug to help humanity / others, but this causes a hero’s fall from grace and subsequent death in ignominy (everyone thinks the hero has been the bully all along)

The hero loves animals? Savaged by a much loved pet is too easy. What about this: the hero must destroy a large number of animals to save a family / loved one / the world. But this leads to the hero’s disgrace and gradual decline toward darkness & extinction. No one will ever know that the hero sacrificed his/her own values ​​for the sake of those he/she loved

The hero excels at swordsmanship, but is brought down by a complete beginner is too easy. What about this? The hero’s excellence at the craft propels him/her to the top of all ranks and makes him/her dominant in the field, but this means the hero does not learn simple (new) lessons / tactics that everyone below his/her position will have discovered / performed / practiced. I mean, everyone uses a crossbow these days, don’t they? How did he/she not know?

The hero is famed for being insightful but is brought down by an unthinking idiot is too easy. What about this? The hero’s perceptual intellect enables him/her to identify dangers that lay way ahead, but the hero becomes so consumed by remote dangers that he/she does not see or recognize a greater and more deadly threat that sits right under their very nose.

So try these character turn-rounds / transformations / volte-faces / capitulations… and approach the death of your character while avoiding melodrama and stale tropes.

Neil mach is author of “So You Want to Write Fantasy?” and host of the Myth & Magic fantasy writer’s podcast.

Writing Acoustically

NaNoWriMo is about applied writing … it’s not about planning, editing or publishing. It is a month of writing every day… of getting words down in “long form.” And getting miles-and-miles of words done too. It sounds overwhelming when you think about it like this, a marathon-run of words, but you will need to achieve thousands of new words a day if you want to write a book. 50k is your minimum, but you’ll aim for 80k and above for a fantasy novel. Thousands will have achieved it before you did and thousands will complete their NaNoWriMo 50k word marathon long after you have finished yours…

So I thought I’d go over the ABCs of applied writing ahead of November… and what I mean by APPLIED WRITING is the essential exercise of writing (so to speak) rather than all refinements and those time-wasting post-production procedures that go into the craft of authorship and (although they are important) can’t be done unless you have your 50 thousand rough words in the first place.

I have broken these ideas down into easy chunks, but before I go into more detail, I want you to compare yourself to a recording artist. How does a pop musician work? Does a musical artist create ready orchestrated sounds that are fully configured, handsomely produced, professionally designed, neatly packaged, and appropriately branded? Of course not! Their songs start life as rough, low-tech, rudimentary, perhaps even crude & clunky pieces of simple improvisation… yet one day those crude little songs will transform into ultra-sophisticated masterpieces that audiences will fall in love with.

It’s the same with you. Just like a musician, you will work with simple improvisations before you go into the studio to construct multidimensional masterpieces.

Think of NaNoWriMo as a rehearsal room and NOT as your recording studio. The month of November is where you lay down your most rudimentary, low-tech demos. This is where you will formulate some rough ideas that can be (much later) produced, packaged, and perfectly branded in the studio.

So, what is writing acoustically?

To continue to labour the analogy between you and the pop star, do you suppose that a musician walks into a rehearsal room with a pile of sophisticated instrumentation and loads of machinery? Mmm, no. They don’t, because that would hamper their creative drive and hinder versatility. It would stop their creative juices flowing. They enter a rehearsal room with their simplest instruments. A guitar to strum. A keyboard to create a riff. Maybe a drum. And, of course, a voice to hum some tunes. They wouldn’t want anything to interfere with the fluidity of their raw creative activity.

I read that the Rolling Stones were (literally) locked in a dark closet and told (by their manager) not to come out until they had written a new song. This was at the beginning of their career, and after a few songs written this way, they were permitted to come out of the closet, but only into the hallway! I know another guy who shuts himself away in a shed in Northern Scandinavia for two weeks. He won’t come out until he’s written ten songs. That’s the goal and the deal he set himself.

So what does acoustic mean? Well, for storytellers like us it means: not electrically enhanced, not mechanically honed, not reworked, not rearranged, and certainly not redesigned or edited. It’s the simple, raw form of words. The half-idea put into approximate language. And left for later.

Try these acoustic approaches to applied writing:

  • writing acoustically, make notes with pen & paper. Tolkien made his notes in long-hand (though he suffered severe rheumatism.) Jane Austen used a quill. So did Charles Dickens, plus he was left-handed, so he had to adapt his nibs. If pen and paper were good enough for these authors to write their notes, it’s good enough for you
  • writing acoustically, try some abstract thinking, do these simple exercises: i) some people are visual thinkers, so start a picture based mood board ii) some people are logical thinkers so make a list of all the place names you’d like to use in your novel, be as fanciful and magical as you like, but put the list in a spreadsheet and make it alphabetical iii) some people are pattern thinkers, so make a play list of sounds that inspire you and create the playlist on Spotify or Soundcloud
  • writing acoustically, try writing in little squirts! Daydreaming like you just did (above) is good, but add ten words to your last vision. Do not check it, do not sharpen it. Just write ten words. Done that? Don’t check them, don’t go back and never edit. Be strict with yourself. Now write for 10 minutes. Yes, now. A ten minute burst. Do it. Set a timer. And stop. STOP after ten minutes. No going back, no editing, no sharpening. This is just flexing and loosening what I like to call the “muscles of your mind” and that last ten minute writing sprint will, of course, be nonsense. But we can use it, oh yes, we can use it, as you will see shortly…
  • writing acoustically, play with your words. Tolkien didn’t just create words, he created entire languages. If Tolkien isn’t good enough for you, what about Shakespeare? He invented over 1,700 words, most are still used today. If those authors did it, so can you. Let no one tell you that you can’t create your own words. It’s what authors do. It’s our thing. In fact, it’s our business. So go back to your ten word vision (above) and replace one (just one) of those ready-made off-the-peg words with your newly made-up word. It feels good doesn’t it? Does it look right, sat there on the page? Does it sound right? Does it fit? Read it out LOUD. Now. Be proud. Because you’re writing like Shakespeare. You’ve only been doing this for about thirty minutes and you are already creating language!
  • writing acoustically, play with sentences. A sentence is just a string of words that, when intertwined, make some sense. It is a vehicle of expression. So go back to your ten minute writing spurt and find a string of words in among all that tangle. Try to fashion a string of words that you locate in that littered mess… try to find something that has implication: something that perhaps titillates, or invites, or conceals, or suggests or exposes. When you’ve found or assembled something, write it out, that new sentence. Now take a break. You earned it!
  • writing acoustically, play with vibes. This is where you will want to go deep inside your own head. What are your genuine emotions, desires, or repulsion right now… at this exact time? What is it that really worries you? What pleases you? What’s eating you? What’s defeating you? What’s gladdening you? Put these thoughts down. In words (you don’t have to use complete sentences unless you really want to, so use bullet points) but play with the vibes of the moment. Can’t find the right words? No problem, use pictures (add them to your mood board) or sounds (add them to your playlist)
  • writing acoustically, play with concepts. A concept is a mental structure. A vague idea is called an inkling. But a concept is perhaps more fully formed than an inkling (though not by much). Sometimes it is better to use symbolism than words to get close to an abstract concept. I call this bit of writing the fancymongering bit… (that’s my own word, not Shakespeare’s) but you can call it whatever you want. What you will want to do here, though, is focus your mind… focus on something that can’t be grasped. But can this “thing” be experienced? Go back to the bundle of nonsense you wrote in ten minutes and see if there is something hidden in that muddle that can be felt? Is there a colour that can be seen? Or a flavour that abides? Anything you can smell? Anything that oozes, sprouts, or drools? Something that pounces out or hisses in your face? Yes? Good. Circle that word or sentence (or thought). And be proud. Because now you’re playing with concepts… and that’s the hardest part of novel writing. Well done. Many congratulations.

    Next week: creating baseline structures & cause and effect in novel writing

Neil Mach is the author of “So You Want to Write Fantasy?” out NOW on Amazon Kindle