Sunday, 19 April 2015

Overcome writers block - top 5 things to change

I'm not usually one to suffer from a lack of story ideas, but sometimes getting the writing started can be the challenge. It's the only form of writers block I usually experience. I have an idea, I know what I want to write, but then I get stuck.

Let me explain this week's challenge. Poison In The Pond is a horror novella I released in October 2014. Last week I had the idea to write a sister novella. I came up with the title for the next in the series, Evil In The Embers, and tweaked a story idea I'd drafted a few months prior, then I sat down at the computer and...nothing. I couldn't get the story started. For the past week I've attempted to get beyond the words Chapter One.

Writer's block is a massive hurdle. I wondered if it was due to the fact I was editing a 120,000 word novel. Writing and editing require different brain activity. Yet Poison In The Pond is a 20,000 word novella, so Evil In The Embers only needs to be 20,000 words. And for the past nine months I've written two full length novels at over 127,000 words a piece. Why can't I write the first chapter to what is essentially a long short story?

I had to come up with a way to get over this hurdle.

I'll go back a little to explain how I typically overcome writers block. In 2010 I had the idea to write a story about an angel trapped in Purgatory. But I could never get the story off the ground. That is, until I changed it to young adult fiction. The Bird With The Broken Wing seemed to write itself after I changed the age of the characters. I heard their voices in my head, their stories appeared on the page, and the novel was written.

Writers block can be crippling unless a writer is open to change.

Change is key to overcoming writer's block. I decided to change the point of view of the main character in Evil In The Embers. I'd started the story with a female's POV. Today I changed the main character to a man and within thirty minutes I had written 1,000 words . Sometimes the story that we want to write isn't the story the characters want to tell.

 If you're struggling with writers block here's a few things you can consider:

1 Change the gender of the main character.

Especially if the writing is sounding cliché, it's time to switch heads. Putting ourselves into the head of the other sex can spark dialogue and setting. It can switch on the creative process and get us using the grey matter in an inspiring way. Writers tend to research what we don't know and its the details in the research that can lead to a more interesting character. If you started off with a female, change to a male and then observe male behaviour. And vice versa.

2 Change the age of the characters.

If you're stuck and you're writing about teens, make them adults. There are enough hurdles when it comes to writing YA such as kids can't drive and you kinda want to avoid parents in the storyline, and kids don't have money and you need them to buy ghost busting equipment, and kids have curfews and you want them to track down the bad guys after dark. Same goes if you're stuck writing adult characters. Maybe adding the complexities that adults vs teens face is just what your writing needs to get that boost.

3 Change the genre.

Okay, you might want to write a paranormal story, but if it's just not working then maybe writing the story in a contemporary manner or vice versa may be the trigger to unlocking the flow of writing. Although, a word of caution about switching genre. You tend to have to stick to one. So if you're having writers block while writing fantasy, try sci-fi or urban fantasy. These are sister genres and won't alienate readers, but to be fair, a good book cover will tell your readers what sort of book it is. As will the blurb.

4 Change the length of the story.

Poison In The Pond began it's life as a novel. First penned in 1996, it was around 80,000 words. But when I sat down almost twenty years later to edit it, I realised it was horribly written. I also didn't want to keep it novel length. It was when I decided to cut out all the crap that the excitement and suspense took off. Philip K Dick, the author of Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep has had most of his works turned into movies, yet his works are short stories. I've often been asked how long should a novel be. The answer is as long as it needs to be. Too little can leave out important detail, yet it can leave a reader begging for more. Too much and you can bore a reader. They never beg for more if you bore them. And if you do decided to go with short stories, there's nothing stopping you from releasing them in a collection.

5 Change who is telling the story.

Have you ever started a story and the sub character's voice sounds more interesting? So why are you sticking with the main character who sounds wooden when the sub character's life sounds awesome? Maybe you should get him or her to tell the story instead. Another word of caution here. Sometimes we need the sub characters to be awesome so they can move the story along. I occasionally hear from readers that Jett should be the main character in The Bird With The Broken Wing. On one hand they have a point. She's feisty, independent, everything I want a strong character to be. But I need her to move the story along, not be the story. Think Han Solo. He rocks space the way Errol Flynn rocks the high seas as a pirate. Star Wars is not about Han solo yet Han Solo pushes the story along. If you want to read more about sub characters who steal the show you can read my blog article here.

What are some ways that you overcome writes block? I'd love to hear your suggestions. Please leave a comment in the comment box.

About the author:

Not one to accept being put into a box, D L Richardson writes speculative fiction for readers who likes a twist in their tale. She now has six books published and is working on an apocalyptic series and a dystopian novel.
You can check out her more about books at her website

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Character versus plot driven novels

I've had a brief hiatus for a few weeks while I get Book Two of my apocalyptic fiction series finished. It's coming along nicely. I'm also discovering books to read via an Amazon discussion so if you'd like to have some books recommended, please join in.

This new series is heavy on plot and character. I'm developing characters that readers want to care about, and also developing the plot. But which is more important?

Characters driven novels are described as novels that characters drive. Der. But they're more than that. They're stories that we love because we want to know what happens to the people in them. When I read To Kill A Mockingbird, I desperately wanted to read about the plights of Scout, Jem, and Atticus. I became a part of their lives. I didn't want the story to end. As a side note, I'm glad that Harper Lee is publishing the follow up story. It's on my To Read pile.

Whereas, plot driven novels tend to have the already structured hero, such as James Bond. We don't need to get to know 007, he's an interchangeable (though we do have our preferences, I'm looking at you Daniel Craig) simply because of the longevity of the series. We like James Bond stories because we like the action, we want to know how he gets out of trouble, how he catches the bad guys. A quick reference to his past is enough to satisfy us that he is human, after all, and not a drone for the British government.

Neither are right or wrong. Both have their place in the market. The strange thing is how this applies to  both standalone fiction and series fiction. Bond is a series, Friends is a series, one is plot drivine one is charcter driven. Yet I like both.

The Hunger Games for me is the perfect example of combining the two elements. We care about the characters and there's a lot of plot and action.

It's a matter of personal choice. But here's what character driven novels have over plot driven novels - the ability to pull at the heart strings. Plot drives the characters, and character drives the plot.

Here's a personal example. The company I work for is being wound up. I've been here three years. I've done a variety of jobs. So it's the character of the organisation that has kept me here, not the work. So if this was the story, it would be character driven. Plot drives the character to do something, not the other way around.

For example, my YA novel Feedback is definitely character driven. The story explores what happens to teenagers who receives the organs of a spy. It shows them mourning for their pre-disease lives, and then learning to live with new hope, and then having that hope ripped away from them. Plot drives the story forward when they get kidnapped, and then they have to locate bombs and disarm them.

As a bonus, for all of May 2015 Feedback ebook is reduced to 99c.


Which do you prefer? Character or plot? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

About the author:

Not one to accept being put into a box, D L Richardson writes speculative fiction for readers who likes a twist in their tale. She now has six books published and is working on an apocalyptic series and a dystopian novel.
You can check out her more about books at her website

Monday, 23 March 2015

5 little ways to find more time to write

I recently spoke at a motivational workshop and a common question was on finding more time to write. We're not all Stephen King or Marian Keyes and have the luxury of being able to write full time. Most of us hold full time or part time jobs and struggle to finish the novel we're working on.

Before we move on you might like to do this little self assessment:  

How much time do I currently spend writing?

How much time would I like to spend writing?

______ hours per week

______ hours per week

How much time do I spend doing non-writing activities?

What are some of these non-writing activities?




______ hours per week


If you want more time to write, you'll need to come up with some strategies, such as these:


“I will write at 8pm for one hour every weeknight.”
Sticking to a writing plan really helps. You form a habit and others see you forming a habit. Plus, the more you write the better and faster you get at it. You might place a limit of one hour or 1,000 words. Turn off social media.

“I won’t go shopping at lunch, I’ll write 500 words instead.”
If you write 500 words for five days you will have 2,500 words. That’s half a short story or quarter of a chapter EACH WEEK. Do that 52 weeks and you will have written 130,000 words. That’s two 60,000 word novels, five 26,000 word novellas, 26 short stories or poems.  Be careful not to edit as you go. Get it written down first, then begin the edits.
"I will get to work 30 minutes earlier or stay later and write 500 words.”
Often, because writing is done at home people think we’re physically there for them. But if you are not in the house, interruptions may be reduced. Also, writing away from home can sometimes provide the focus you need to form that ‘write every day’ habit.

“I’ll take a notebook with me everywhere I go and if I find myself with spare time, I’ll write.”
Doctor waiting rooms, bus trips, getting your hair done, travelling for work, flights and hotels...these are all down time opportunities that can be put to good use but of course, if you need the down time, take it. A key to resilience is looking after the writing machine you'll become.
"I'll skip that TV show I don't really like and write instead."
I enjoy watching certain TV shows (Supernatural being my favourite at the moment), and can't stand others (mainly reality TV). So instead of complaining about there being nothing on TV, I get up and go into my study and write until a show I want to watch comes on.
So these tips are pretty manageable. But if you're still not convinced how important it is to write a goal and stick to it, then here's another way to look at finding time to write:

Think of someone who is studying for a Bachelor of Arts. How do people react when they say they can’t go to dinner because they have an assignment due?
Think of someone who’s on a diet. How do people react when they say no to birthday cake in the office?
The answer is that they usually help push the person studying to reach their goal, and try to pull the dieter away from theirs.
Good luck with your writing. And please let me know if you have any tips to share.

About the author:

Not one to accept being put into a box, D L Richardson writes speculative fiction for anyone who likes a twist in their tale. She now has six books published and is working on an apocalyptic series and a dystopian novel.
You can check out her more about books at her website




Saturday, 7 March 2015

Writing reviews that help readers find books

As an author, I understand the value of reviews. I need them to help readers find out if other readers enjoyed my book. I often read through reviews of other books I'm interested in. Am I swayed by bad reviews or good reviews? Not really. My mind will be made up by the book description, and sometimes, though not always, by the number of reviews.

Readers are consumers. Writers are consumers. As a reader I need to know that I'm going to invest my time wisely. As a writer, I need to know you feel comfortable telling me that you enjoyed it without having to feel the need to write an essay.

So I'm going to dispel a few myths about what writers are looking for in a review.

Myth number one:

A review is a critique.

BUSTED: I don't want a reader to have to agonize over whether the author captured the notion of belonging, or the character arc, or the three act structure was followed. If you have time to write a critical review, then by all means do so. But if this is what is preventing you from giving a review of a book, then one line or one paragraph is perfectly adequate. it's more than adequate. Anything you have to say is so helpful for authors and readers. Your review doesn't have to be an essay.

This is an actual review received via email from a fan for my spy adventure novel Feedback:

....i thought feedback was so good such an interesting concept and i have to say something i have actually thought about fantastic read fantastic !!!!


Myth number two:

3 or 4 stars is a good rating.

CONFIRMED: If you check the Goodreads ranking scale, 3 stars means you liked it, 4 stars means you really liked it and 5 stars means it was amazing.

We all want 5 star reviews. But with so many 5 star reviews being handed out they are losing their value. Next we'll need to introduce a 6 or 7 star system so we can rate the books we really do love higher than 5.

I'll give an example. My favourite books are The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, Robocalypse by Daniel H Wilson, and To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. these are the books which all books must now be compared to. So why would I give a book I thought was good, or worse just okay, a 5 star rating?

It isn't necessary to pander to an author's ego. In fact, pandering to my ego and telling me everything is great is counter-productive. I received 3.5 stars for The Bird With The Broken Wing from Night Owl Reviews and it's an honest review. I'm over the moon about an honest review, so please feel free to give them, even if the author is your friend.

Myth number three:

A review is your opportunity to take your angst out on the world.

BUSTED: If you hated a book, then you should still make your review professional. If you can't do that then a simple, "I did not like this book and I will not be reading anything else this author writes" will suffice. I have read a few nasty reviews on Amazon, (none or any of my books, thankfully) and I only end up thinking that whoever wrote that review is a tool. Be professional.

Some examples of well-written 1 star reviews:

Could not get into this book.
Very slow and repetitive.

Example of reviews not to write:

I didn't even read it wanted to try another book so skipped to the end of the book thank you

I'm staggered to understand why someone would even leave a review for a book they didn't read. Didn't finish, perhaps, but didn't read???

These are just a few myths busted. If I think of anymore I shall be sure to let you know. How do you go at writing reviews? do you give them verbally to your friends, or do you write them on Goodreads and Amazon and other online sites.

About the author:

Not one to accept being put into a box, D L Richardson writes speculative fiction for anyone who likes a twist in their tale. She now has six books published and is working on an apocalyptic series and a dystopian novel.
You can check out her more about books at her website

Monday, 23 February 2015

Writer workshop Canberra Australia, Sunday March 15, 2015

Get Motivated to Write with a Little INK-couragement with Debbie Richardson

11:30am–1:30pm Sunday 15 March

To succeed takes patience, persistence, and passion. But how do we stay patient, persistent, and passionate throughout our long and often lonely writing journey?

Today's author needs to be mentally prepared to battle through the multitude of writers that are appearing daily on the scene. I'll share with you helpful lessons I've learned throughout my writing career, plus you'll take home tips that will keep you fuelled to keep writing, keep writing, and keep writing.

This seminar will cover:
  • How to find more time to write by saying no (and not feel guilty about saying no)
  • How to turn rejection from a red light into a green light
  • How to find your inner determination to keep writing
  • How publishers and editors are thinking, and why you should think that way, too
  • How to apply everyday situations to improve your mental stamina
Debbie Richardson writes speculative fiction as D L Richardson. She began writing in 1996 at a time when Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Anne Rice were her influences. Many of her earlier works remain unpublished but she never gave up doing what she loved. Her first short story was published in 2005, and she has had four more short stories published, four novels, one short story anthology, and a novella. She is currently working on a four book series.

Cost: $25 members, $40 non-members
Venue: ACT Writers Centre workshop room
Bookings: You can book by phone on 6262 9191, online or at the office. Payment is required at time of booking.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

50 Shades vs Sex and the City

One of my favourite TV shows is Sex and the City. I have all the DVDs, the TV shows, the movies, I adore this show. I even have an etched SATC cosmopolitan glass with from when I worked at Paramount Pictures and it was used as marketing material.

So, considering how much I love Sex and the City, you'd think that I'd like 50 Shades of Grey. But I don't. The difference between the two is vast.

I cared about what happened to Charlotte, Carrie, Samantha, and Miranda. Sometimes they were selfish. Sometimes they were reckless. Sometimes I couldn't understand how it could be so difficult to find Mr Right. The thing is, I cared about what happened to them. I laughed with them. I cried with them. I wanted them to find the love of their life. I hated it when they fought and didn't talk to one another. And I freely admit I loved Big.

I didn't finish reading 50 Shades of Grey. And it had nothing to do with the writing. I just couldn't connect with either character and I didn't care what happened to them. They could have slipped off a cliff and I would have said, "Meh. Fish will get a feed tonight."

Both stories are uber-successful. Both writers are uber-successful. (Sex and the City is based in part on a book of the same name by Candice Bushnell). Both writers have the type of success all writers dream of.

When 50 Shades first came out, my husband asked why I didn't write something like that.

I don't begrudge E L James her success. Often, these mass widespread successes are driven by the market, not the publisher or marketing campaigns. In my opinion, this book came at a time when adults were fleeing the YA market (Twilight saga by Stephenie Meyer) and these women wanted something to distance themselves from teenagers. What is more distant to a coming of age vampire novel than bondage. 

The market i.e the readers made 50 Shades the success it is. There's no point yelling at E L James. She wrote a book. It went supernova. Every writer on the planet wants their book to go supernova. But this does open up the question of whether a writer would write something they don't particularly care for if it sold books and made them money.

I don't even bother contemplating writing a book like 50 Shades. It's not what I write. It's not why I write. I much prefer the interaction between the SATC girls and their men than I do the interaction between Ana and Christian.

So would I be E L James for the money? Much to my husband's disappointment, the answer is no. Much like in love where there is a line that can be crossed where we settle for less than we want, I can't trade money for my conscience. Pity. I'd like a new house, new clothes, to give up work, new furniture...

Friday, 13 February 2015

At what point should you give up writing?

I started writing in 1996. I didn't know what I was doing and I've come a long way, yet I still consider everything up until now to be training. I now have six books published and I should be saying, yah for me, dream come true, that hard work has paid off, good on me for following my dreams. But instead, I stand at the crossroads wondering if I will ever find success.

I don't sell a lot of books. I advertise. Nothing. I promote. Nothing. I do blog tours. Nothing. The best success I've had selling books is in person at work or at the local markets. But this method of selling makes for a very long, hard slog if I am to sell twenty-five million copies. I'd need to be Katy Perry just to have one tenth of that number in the one room. And it would take a billion hours to personally talk to every single person.

So, should I give up? Should I give myself a deadline? Should I say, okay I'll finish the series I'm currently writing and then say, if I haven't sold a million copies, then I give up?

We've all heard the phrase never give up on your dreams. We've also heard how hard work pays off. We've read the success stories. Here's a great article on 9 famous people who will inspire you to never give up

Stephen King was so poor he didn't have a telephone and he received 60 rejections before selling his short story for $35. J. K. Rowling was a single mother on government aid and had to manually type up her manuscripts to send to publishers.

Yet, many successful people are still the exceptions. There are thousands more writers who continue to submit manuscripts, continue to publish, and continue to face a hard slog selling their books. So is it better to fail, than to quit?

Michael Jordon once said, "I have missed 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

I saw the movie Wild the other week. It stars Reese Witherspoon and is based on the book by Cheryl Strayed and is a story of a woman who needed to get her head together so she walked a thousand miles in 94 days. She considered giving up a lot of times. Who wouldn't? At all points in this sort of journey there is a way out. And at some point there is also the road of no return - you've come so far you might as well keep going.

I think there's a huge difference between considering giving up and actually giving up. We should be asking ourselves if what we're doing is worth it? And if we walk away and say "yes it is", then we know not to give up.

Christopher Reeve, whom I loved as Superman, became a quadriplegic. He took a moment every day to  acknowledge his situation. "In the morning, I need twenty minutes to cry," he said. "To wake up and make that shift, you know, and just to say, 'This really sucks' to really allow yourself the feeling of loss." And then he would  say, "And now forward," and move on with his day. He didn't allow his situation to stop him. He took what he had and tried his best to help others. He never gave up. But then, super heroes don't.

Australian crime thriller author, Michael Robotham made a really great point when I saw him speak at the Sydney writers Festival last year. On writing and giving up he said, "If they banned writing and you hid in a basement to write while people overhead stomped around in the search of writers, then you should keep writing."

And so shall I. I don't begrudge people questioning my commitment. Do it! Bring it on! I dare you to motivate me. By questioning me, you help me to pause and reflect and realise that what I'm doing is worth it TO ME. I have a dream. I have a vision. I have a goal. And I will fail a thousand times rather than give up.

And so I will leave you with this piece of advice. Whatever dream you have, do it as if you are the only person who has the zombie cure and you won't rest until you have saved humanity or died trying.


About the author:

Not one to accept being put into a box, D L Richardson writes speculative fiction for anyone who likes a twist in their tale. She now has six books published and is working on an apocalyptic series and a dystopian novel.
You can check out her more about books at her website