The 5 happy habits #psychology #happiness

I have recently finished reading The slight edge by Jeff Olson. One of the things he talks about is the link between happiness and success, so I thought I would share the 5 happy habits as recommended by Shawn Achor (his Ted talk is attached below). Being happy has many benefits and there appear to be many supporting statistics out there, but for me, I think being happy is enough reward in itself.

So what are the 5 happy habits? And what are the rules for applying them?

Here’s the overarching rule. You pick one of the happy habits and incorporate it into your daily routine. Any habit, so check out the list and see which ones work for you.

  1. Write down 3 things that made you happy in the last 24 hours.
  2. Spend 2 minutes writing about one positive experience you had in the last 24 hours.
  3. Exercise for 10 minutes a day.
  4. Practice meditation for 2 minutes a day.
  5. Perform an act of kindness without expecting anything in return.

Now I think most of us could squeeze something from that list into our busy day. Shawn recommends repeating this for 21 days to create a positive habit.

For more on happiness…5 Ways to turn happiness into an advantage

Hope you enjoy the video 🙂

How time flies when you’re writing… #amwriting

I love writing and I make no apologies for this fact. But when you are doing something that you love, be it writing or cooking or spending time with your nearest and dearest, time flies, and that can leave you feeling—cheated.

You glance up and check the clock only to discover that hours have gone by…

You look across at your coffee and realise it has gone cold…

You remember you were supposed to <insert important activity here> and now you have to rush!

You wonder where the time went, and yet you are still greedy for more.

I love writing and I make no apologies for this fact, but if I could have one wish granted it would be for just a little more time to write.

9 Writing Rules Science Fiction & Fantasy Authors Should Break #amwriting #scifi

In the sci-fi / fantasy genre, there are many spoken and unspoken rules of what makes a great book. I have picked my favourite 9 rules from the article:  10 Writing “Rules” We Wish More Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors Would Break. I love that every example where they have broken the rule has produced a fantastic book. So, be brave writers!

1. No third-person omniscient. Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, is a classic example of how to get this right.

2. No prologues. My own book as a prologue and I only added it in later. Both my husband and my editor agreed it was a great addition, but it still makes me a little nervous as I know it can put many readers off. George R.R. Martin starts all the Song of Ice and Fire books with a prologue. They set the scene for later book conflicts via a throw away character.

3. Avoid info-dumps. It can be hard to avoid a little info dump in this genre without going to elaborate lengths to explain the world in a round-about way. But if a few concise sentences can do the job better, why not? See A collection of 20 well-done info infodumps.

4. Fantasy novels have to be a series. While many of them are a series, some absolute classics have been completely stand-alone. Here is a great list of examples. Never Wait for a Sequel Again: 17 Standalone Fantasy Novels.

5. No portal fantasy. The big questions seems to be – has this been done to death? A bit of an old one now, but Raymond E. Feist’s, Daughter of the Empire: An Epic Saga of the World on the Other Side of the Riftwar is a great example. There have been tons more before and after. See also: Walk through this portal with me into another world. So, do you think there is  still a place for portal sci-fi and fantasy?

6. No FTL. There are the purists out there who want their sci-fi as realistic as possible. Every fact has to be verified as plausible to the latest know physics theories, and there are those that totally throw the book away… Each to their own 😉

7. Women can’t write ‘hard’ science fiction. I guess it all comes down to what your definition of ‘hard’ sci-fi is (what is hard science fiction?). Unfortunately  I have to agree, there are a lot of great male writers in the sci-fi genre, and they have dominated for quite a while. In the fantasy category there are oodles of great women writers, and even someone like Ursula K. Le Guin, who I think is an  awesome writer, is probably leaning more towards fantasy. See the Best Hard Science Fiction.

8. Magic has to be a minor part of fantasy fiction. What? Who decided this? I think George R. R. Martin has probably caused this one to come about because he has effectively written The War of the Roses (PS don’t read this if you don’t want to know how the series ends – he has followed it closely so far!) in a fantasy setting with only a light smattering of magic to mix things up, and this has become so hugely popular. “Long live the magic writers” – I say.

9. No present tense. This rule seems to apply more to the traditional or high fantasy genre, whereas a lot of the more modern sub-genre such as urban fantasy or YA fantasy have embraced the present tense. Science fiction similarly, the more traditional sci-fi avoids present tense, while some of the YA sci-fi, and cross-genre takes, do. So is it time for the first epic fantasy in present tense? Or will it just turn out to be a mess? I would love to hear if you have read any good examples of more traditional science fiction or fantasy that has been written in present tense.

In conclusion, rules of writing are always open to be broken, and I would even argue that some of these should be taken with a pinch of salt. And while breaking rule can lead you to a literary mess, it can also produce something uniquely new and fresh.


Love Sci-fi and fantasy fiction?


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Arguing with a fool #amreading #amwriting

A wise old man once said that “arguing with a fool only proves that there are two.”

I came across this video a few days ago and I have played it about ten times since. When you are a writer, you never simply watch things and move on. If you are anything like me, then everything you come across in life gets analysed to death.

So, what do I like about the hapless wildebeest and their short but funny show…

I like the fact that it is short, and yet still manages to be powerful.

This got me thinking about long stories and short stories. I have read books of all lengths. I am just as comfortable with a well structured novella, as I am with the epic ten book series you can get in the fantasy fiction genre. I have seen both good and bad examples of both – the novella where you think ‘erm, where’s the rest of the story?’ and the fat novel that waffles on and on with out making any credible progress until you just want to shake the hero or heroine by the neck and demand they make a decision – anything just to move the damn story along.

I also like the fact that it is funny, and yet that does not detract from the depth of its sentiments.

I have read books from nearly every genre, and there is nothing more powerful than books that manage to make us both laugh and cry. I do like moody books, dark books even, and sometimes comedy is just never going to fit. When it does fit, and we balance the fun with a deeper message / theme / whatever it is you are trying to convey – then you have something very special.

Finally, this makes me think about people.

Sometimes when you read a book (or write a book), you stop and think ‘why on earth did they do that – that is stupid’, but we forget, that in life people (and wildebeests) can, and often are, blessed with moments of extreme and unfathomable stupidity.

It was writing a scene not long ago and someone did something ‘foolish’. After, I procrastinated the scene. Was it credible? In character? Can intelligent people have moments of ‘crazy’? Can our less mentally astute have moments of ‘genius’?

Throwing the odd spanner at our characters is what makes them interesting.

And sometimes you just need a little stupid doing what it does best.

The waves of reading and writing #amreading #amwriting

When I first started writing, I had no end goal in mind. I used to write and read like a ping pong ball, bouncing back and forth across the net between reading and writing in rapid succession. In any given day I might read a book of one genre, write a scene in a different genre, and flick back to reading a book in another genre still.

I did this for years, dabbling in reading styles and writing styles and genres of every kind.

I have noticed a change, though, more recently as I have focused on writing complete books … my reading and writing activity now comes in waves.

When I write I become very focused on the writing. It’s like I’m caught up in the process of creation so comprehensively that all I do is write, and I keep doing this until my creative brain is numb. It pulls at me and consumes me, it’s like I fall into the creativity head-space as if it were a very deep well. It takes all of me, and the ideas buzz about like flies, darting in and out of my focus.

When writing, I make lots of notes, jotting ideas down here and there on little scraps of paper, and noting things to check, verify or change.

The speed and intensity builds up until I reach whatever self-directed threshold I desire, such as finishing the draft or perhaps a significant section of the book.

It’s only then that I lift my head and look up and realise that I have been performing the task so exclusively that I don’t know how to do anything else. I look out into the real world; I had forgotten it was there.

During the creativity stage I cut myself off from new information, but after, I find myself reading with the same voracious appetite that I had previously allocated to writing. I often download a few new books to my kindle, and check out the latest posts on all my favourite blogs that I had forgotten about during the frenzy of the writing time.

When reading, I make lots of notes, jotting ideas down here and there on little scraps of paper, and noting things to check, verify or change.

There is probably a third wave around editing, which I feel is a very different skill to either writing or reading, and requires a mind-set shift again. Reading, editing and writing require different thinking patterns, and I find trying to flick between the three too rapidly delivers a poor outcome for my work. I am sure there are plenty of people out there who have the enviable ability to jump between the three activities easily, but for me there is a definite speed and quality drop if I try to incorporate all three too closely together. There is also a saturation point when doing any one of the three for too long, which also has a negative impact.

So for me, reading, and writing (and editing) happen in waves. They have natural saturation points, and when I transition between them I need to relearn / remember the skill again.

As a writer I need all these phases. I could not write forever anymore than I could edit or read forever, and if I tried I would soon find my work bland without fresh input or ideas.

I love the way that both reading and writing generate new ideas in completely different ways. When we write the ideas are internally focused on the book we have in development. When we read the ideas are externally focused, but they still drive changes and ideas for our book. To be a balanced writer and to get the very best out of our work we need our reading and writing waves, however quick or slow they may be.