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Getting in the write!


(First published in Hearts Talk magazine in February 2007)

When I grew up I wanted to be the next Peter Weir.  As such, I spent my formative post-University years working on film-sets, none of which any of you would have seen ;).  But that grounding meant that I still come at writing a book from the angle of managing such a production.

call sheet

Be on set on time!

My writing day begins at midday.  Before then I can do as I please: check emails, sleep, blog, watching Grey’s Anatomy repeats, eat, sleep, stare into space, “research” pictures of Marat Safin… 

But at midday, I am at my desk, ready to turn off all other distractions, and write.  If not, the producer inside of me gives me quite a rousing.


Discover which location is best for your story.

While my timeline is decided, the location of my writing day is not. I have on office, my set if you like, and while everything there is familiar, comfortable and conducive to writing, sometimes it feels stale.  Sometimes it helps to go out on location; with my Alphasmart on the sofa, my laptop at a local café, or a pen and paper in the backyard.  I mix up my writing locations to keep my muse inventive. 


Keep pictures of your hero and heroine within eyesight.

Many of you I’m sure do this already – google pictures of movie stars and the like.  Well, it’s not just a good excuse to keep pictures of hot guys on file.  The right casting works.  Finding that one perfect photo which encapsulates your hero or heroine is a godsend. 

But be careful, the wrong casting can be disastrous.  Picture Gone With the Wind starring Groucho Marx.  Or Indiana Jones starring the kid from Napoleon Dynamite.  Wrong, wrong, wrong!

I had a gorgeous piccie of the lovely Hugh Jackman all picked out for my last Romance.  Problem was, he was the complete wrong guy for the book I was trying to write.  Far too nice.  Even his hair was all wrong!  Yes, it is possible to miscast hair.  I am living proof.  It hampered me for weeks until I let go and recast.  And just like that everything fell into place.


Punctuate your story with mood music.

A filmgoer may blink, or look away to check out a cute guy in the next row, or spend half the movie with their nose buried in their popcorn, their ears never turn off.  Sound pervades.

Those in charge of music in movies who do it well choose songs that create a kind of soundtrack of their characters’ lives.  Think Mad World in  Donnie Darko.  Or God Only Knows at the end of Love Actually.   I love that.  I get that.  And I use that.

For each book I write I have a CD that gets played over and over.  In a normal world this would drive me crazy, but in the world of writing a book it can be really helpful in getting you in the right mood.  Pick a CD or make a mixed tape of songs that bookmark the memorable moments in your characters’ journeys.   I’ve used Robbie Williams for fun books, Moulin Rouge for a book set partly in Paris, and I’m currently deeply into Jeff Buckley’s Grace for a much more moody evocative book I’m working on right now.

craft services

Cater to your creative side.

I once heard that it is wise to study in the manner in which you plan to sit your exam.  For example, if you eat buttered toast and drink scads of tropical juice while studying, do the same thing before going into your exam.  It helps you tap into that part of you brain you used while studying - like some kind of sense memory.

I stick by the same habits when writing.  Every day as I sit at my computer I do so with a cup of coffee, big glass of iced water, and a tub of M&Ms at the ready.  Even if I never finish the coffee, might forget about the M&Ms (unlikely, but every so often it happens) the fact that I am surrounded by the same comfort foods each and every book helps immeasurably.


Independence or collaboration?

Are you an autonomous writer or someone who needs to surround yourself with interested parties?

I am an auteur, without a doubt.  Creative control, not diluting my idea, is a big deal for me.  Only because I know that I am easily affected by outside influences.  Therefore nobody gets to see my work until my editor.

But there is something to be said for working with the same crew over and over again.  Look at Woody Allen.  Kenneth Branagh.  Successful creators who trust those they use to support their vision.  If you find a group, or a critique partner, or a family member who fits into your production, hang on tight.  Share the load.  Delegate away.

that’s a wrap

The key is finding what works for you.  Sounds of the ocean or Metallica full blast?  A one room set, or jump cut to Starbucks at lunchtime?  Celery sticks and bottled water, or salt and vinegar chips and coffee on tap?  Orlando Bloom or the Rock?

Find out what kind of production values get you in the mood to write, and go for broke.  Budget be damned ;).

Now keyboard, monitor, action!


All articles copyright © Ally Blake, not to be reproduced without permission.











































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