Link that link

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Since moving to Muddled Manuscript I’ve drafted a lot of posts.

I’m doing something with the blog, and more exciting things are coming.

On the 9th of September and every Tuesday Maddy and I will be running a new linky. It’s about focusing on what you’re writing, your goals, your aims and your frustrations.

If you’re interested, jump over to the post on Muddled Manuscript to find out more!

Look forward to seeing you!

I’ve moved!

Ok, I’ve finally done it. Bitten that bullet and moved all the content from this blog over to Muddled Manuscript.

It seemed silly to have domain doing very little over there and blogging in multiple places was messy.

This blog won’t be going anywhere, but new content will be going on Muddled Manuscript, so if you want to keep reading, hop on over.

Thanks x

Sometimes it doesn’t come easy

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It went a bit quiet there for a moment, didn’t it?

I’m back now that CampNaNoWriMo has finished eating my soul and sucking my brains out through my empty eye sockets.

CampNaNo did not come easy. The win was forced, pushed out through the clenched bum cheeks of my fear of failure. The story was intense and grew into a monster. I had lots of ideas for moving blogs around and managing my time, but I didn’t seem to have the time to sort it out.  I had moments where the words wouldn’t come, or the emotion was too raw or things in my real life took a turn for the worst and I couldn’t face opening myself up to my character’s emotional destruction as well as my own.

I spent a lot of time on research for this one, as it contains a lot of medical terms, and I know that from being the parent of a child with a medical condition, you get to learn the names of the medicines and the medical terms associated with the condition pretty early on.  You also change the way you talk to other people about it, thinking about how to say things so it doesn’t sound like some horrible clinical mess.

Once I had my hands dirty in the wordcount, everything become more and more muddled, with ideas jumping out at me left right and centre and each one subtley changed the outcome for my poor protagonist until the story I wrote over the month of July transformed into some kind of beast with a mind of it’s own.

I didn’t like that much.

There were walls and obstacles and it all seemed so pointless…

It-gets-like-this

 

It’s hard to keep going and push through those walls.  It’s hard to find the energy to keep writing, especially if it is a hobby.  Aren’t you supposed to enjoy your hobbies?  Aren’t they supposed to relax you and not cause you undue stress?

Even if this time (or last time or next time) you don’t complete your word count, at least you have done something. We all know sometimes life just gets in the way and something has to give. Writing is an easy thing to put on the back burner – blogging is especially like that for me – because it came seem like such a pipedream, such a freaking PUSH to get to where you want to be and sometimes, quite frankly, you just don’t have the energy.

I know. I’ve been there.

You have to fight the block. you have to fight the urge to procrastinate.

You have to do something. And if you’ve done your best, even if it’s not as much as you were hoping, well done, you.

We’ve all had moments when the words won’t come.

A not-so-FAQ for #britmumsLive 2014

It might seem odd that someone who normally writes first drafts of novellas would choose to go to a conference predominantly aimed at bloggers.

Or at least that’s what you might think if you didn’t know that Britmums is home to a large group of writers who are writing and publishing their own works both with traditional agents and publishers and via self-publishing. The conference has adapted to this group and carved out a large proportion of its timetable to dedicate to these people (including me and the writing group.)

That’s enough posho pre-amble. Onto the meat of the matter: How was Britmumslive for a serial-first-drafter?

We all know you had your apprehensions, so how did you deal with that?

There was the small matter of a ticket kerfuffle and me getting rather agitated about it (myBritmums Live badge got lost, security were quite rude about it, I cried like a baby, etc etc) but my friend Karen from Tales of a Twin Mum forced me to go through the door.

My special handwritten badge.

My special handwritten badge.

The Britmums Butterflies were ready to grab people like myself and luckily, they happened to be my writing chums Sarah and Sarah. There were more tears and I made a complete arse of myself. Moving on…

Monika took over. Outgoing and bubbly, she quickly sweetened my bitterness and it was hard not to want to get involved with Monika spreading her infectious energy.  If you get a chance, go and see her blog.

What if you needed to have a drink? You’ll have needed tea. You live on the stuff.

Tea, coffee and wine were free-flowing the entire time; perfect for topping up our addictions. A writer needs to keep him or herself alert on order to pick up on any potential ammunition.

Wine. Yes. Wine.

Wine. Yes. Wine.

Was the keynote aimed at bloggers or novelists?

The first hour or so was heavy on the blogging side, with a keynote from Emma Freud. She talked about having a voice and the way blogging can make change. This is an excellent message for writers. We should be pushing ourselves to get more involved. Don’t be afraid to be opinionated or say something contentious, which she did.

Ooh, what did she say?

Emma played on her femininity by stating she had slept her way to the top. This has split the internet and made her the subject of some interesting posts. A clever move!

Good or bad thing?

I’ll tell you later.

So then what happened? Love a bit of gossip!

The feminist theme was followed up by a conversation about the female voice in the media. I was personally quite stunned by how many people left the hall for this chat; feminism and its knock on effects are an important concept for women publishing their own work. This is a blog post for another day.

But I like feminism..talk to me more about the feminists.

Later. Let’s move on.

How does all this relate to writing so far? 

The Internet is constantly opening up opportunties for us.  It’s there, and it’s OUT THERE.  It’s given us a chance to get ourselves known.  It can be a great tool and it can be dangerous.  This is more advantageous for a blogger but with competition fierce in the self-publishing market, we need to push and push and if that means getting to know how blogging and bloggers work, then do it.

Did you see any real life proper published writer people? 

Book signings were going on throughout the day, so we had an opportunity to chat to some of our favourite people.

The writer-type sessions began with a wonderful talk about the creative process from Amanda Jennings, author of Sworn Secret and The Judas Scar; Hannah Beckerman, author of The Dead Wife’s Handbook  and Rowan Coleman who has written 24 books in her career.  If these three ladies didn’t make you want to have success in your writing, no one would.

Hannah Beckerman, Rowan Coleman and Amanda Jennings talking about the creative process (and procrastinating.)

Hannah Beckerman, Rowan Coleman and Amanda Jennings talking about the creative process (and procrastinating.)

Did they help?

Of course! Writers love to help other writers, right? There was a great vibe in the room as they have us tips right through from getting started to finding time, to finishing and editing. They’ve done it all.  They’ve had the rejection and the heartache. Each one has got her own style, which only serves to re-inforce the mantra that you have to do what is right for you and your book – but make sure you do it A LOT.

What about the next step?

One of the things that Britmums Live offers, since so many of its participants have expressed an interest in writing longer works, is a chance to Speed Date an agent. 10 minutes to pitch a idea to an agent from LBA, a literary agency.  Unfortuntely, by the time I was ushered up there by Susan, the spots had gone.  Still, Luigi came down to chat to us and answer our questions.

You saw a real life agent too? Was he all mystical and shiz?

Nope. He was quite normal. Actually quite nice. He gave us very thorough guidelines about how to make the most of our submissions and what he expects from the first page of a novel. You’ll have to wait for the post about that!

Luigi from LBA agency

Luigi Bonami in action telling us how it is.

(It’s probably not going to be wise to submit to him right now because I should imagine he will be inundated with submissions.  Let it chill, dude.  There’s no rush.)

Wait, someone must have won something?

Yep. lots of bloggers took home awards and fuzzy feelings (not wine-inflicted).
What followed afterwards was a celebration of all that is good in the blogging world, with wine, music and cheering.

Britmums Live 2014 awards

Awards being given out. We were hiding at the back. (Hence the heavy effects)

Were you all inspired after the first day?

Hells yeah, but far too tired to do anything about it. I was tucked up in bed by nine, notepad on my lap and ready to embark on a voyage of imagination, although very little came out before sleep took hold.

So very sleepy

Look how tired I am.

What happened on day two? I mean, you’ve done all the good stuff, yes?

Some good stuff. We spent the morning networking. This was a mixture of trying new things and talking to brands about products and our blogs. It’s a strange feeling and an excellent confidence booster. I got to tell people I am a novelist and mean it. Initially, I was drawn in by the lure of free things, but actually left with confidence and inspiration, which is much more valuable. I got to have a good chat with mummygadgetgeek too, so it was definitely worthwhile.

Anything good for us novelists?

A Livescribe pen. Check them out. The Memory box app is pretty special, too. Carnival cruises, (who doesn’t need to get away?), delicious cherries, books from Parragon and if lose your keys a lot, the Keyfetch people offer a very neat solution. You would have loved it.

Dammit! Did you hear the keynote?

Sadly not. Ben Brooks-Dutton, whose book title is enough to bring tears to the eyes of any parent, is a wonderullly brave man who took his courage after tragedy and changed the way we talk about grief. We could all learn some lessons from him about using a life experience to affect the lives of others and provoke deep emotions via writing.

Wow. You should have gone to that!

Yep, but I caught up with Ben Brooks-Dutton later and had a converstion which consisted of me making stupid sad faces and trying not to cry over the title of his book. He probably hadn’t forgiven me for missing the keynote though.

Back to my book. I’m writing a memoir. Can that get me in trouble?

Well, sort of. Check out UK defamation law (if you’re in the UK, otherwise, it’s off to Google you go.) We had a talk about this too, with a guide to what you should do when someone is less than savoury on your blog. You need to watch what you and others say in an open forum and quell any concerns asap.

Otherwise you’ll be in trouble?

You can be, yes. You would need to check out the law and if in doubt, consult a lawyer before letting your darlings out in public.

Ok, so I’ve released the book. I get to keep all the money?

No. As Georgi from Starfish Accounting says, you have to pay tax. In fact, she broke down what you pay and why you pay it into simple chunks that were easy to digest and didn’t leave a bitter taste in your mouth.

You’ve mentioned getting OUT THERE. How?

Thankfully, The Fairy Blogmother was there to get us started. I picked her beginner’s blogging guide because I felt like I could do with a bit of guidance on my blogging. She inspired me to really think about which direction I should be taking.

I can has self-pub?

Now, now. Self-publishing is legit. Despite its (sadly) poor reputation, it’s also highly beneficial for the author. Emma Clark Lam talked to us about the success of her self-published novel A Sister for Margot. Her session was highly informative and even went into detail about uploading via KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

Emma Clark Lam and self-publishing

Emma Clark Lam talks about self-publishing and the Things You Should Know.

This session had the added advantage of allowing me to meet up with Susan again as well as Tas, Steph and Kerry. More writery people!

Sounds like a hectic day! How did you calm down? I’d have been high for weeks!

Pippa from Story of Mum ran a me-time session where we focused on us and our creativity. Breathing, writing and making (with stickers!) was the order of the session, topped off by a beautiful poem by MushroomsMum.

Quite proud of my attempt at creativity.

Quite proud of my attempt at creativity.

I also got the opportunity to mingle with MotherScuffer, Mum’s Days and This is Wis.

You met a lot of people? Anyone else?

Maggie from Red Ted Art and Eliza Do Lots. Both lovely ladies. Maggie and I chatted about crafting with kids (she let me into her secret) and I’ve been meaning to meet Eliza for years so I was chuffed when we eventually found each other. I also met Michelle briefly in a writer session. Unfortunately, she was only there for the evening and I would have liked more of a chance to chat to her.

So how was it for a novelist over all?

I didn’t stay til the end as I had to get home to children and bedtime drama, but I would say it was definitely a worthwhile experience. I feel rejuvenated and my inspiration is flowing.

Disclaimer: The people mentioned in this blog post have not paid me to mention them. The brands gave me stuff to try and talked to me about their products. This does not affect my opinion of their awesomeness.

May contain writing

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May was supposed to be the month of dreams. Well, dragons anyway (have I mentioned how hard it is to write fantasy?) but alas, it wasn’t to be.

That’s OK, though. There are no hard and fast rules about writing, which is most of the attraction.

Some other exciting things did happen during May.

Prose For Thought – Victoria Welton runs this weekly linky on her blog and encourages people to link up with their creative works. It’s a lovely community.

The Prompt – run by Sara who gives us a great prompt every week to get the creative juices going.

Paperswans – a monthly journal and closeknit community run by Sarah and Stephanie. Hint: I may have been published in issue 2.

These are excellent ways to flex your writing muscles and share with groups of open-minded people.

My entries for Prose For Thought and The Prompt can be found at The Muddled Manuscript.

Lock

Last week, the washing machine started to make a loud noise during the spin cycle. When I say loud, I don’t mean “Oh, it squeaked a bit.” I mean it shouted out its death throes like a Shakespearian actor trying to steal the show.

Then the door stopped locking and when then door doesn’t lock, the cycle won’t start, therefore rendering it less washing machine more wet place to put clothes.

How does this relate to writing?

Sometimes things don’t click in a story and it won’t lock and this stops you going any further, just like the door on my washing machine.  Sadly for my washing machine, the fault was terminal, but the beauty about writing is that a little hiccup doesn’t have to be fatal.

Here’s some things you can try when you get stuck:

Free writing.

Write something else. Get words out. Doesn’t matter what they are. You may find the answer comes to you during one of these sessions when you are really thinking about it. 

Handwrite something in a journal.

I love handwriting. I love notebooks. Combine the two and keep a journal for those moments when you’re stuck. Usually I find that the journal entries reveal things I didn’t know about my characters and myself. However, resist falling into the “angst trap.”

Do five minutes of plotting.

Write down what you do know about the scene in bullet points. Write down anything else relating to the scene. This should help to get your mind in a place where you can write the scene itself. After doing the washing, having a cup of tea, eating a snack, rearranging your desk etc etc.

Write through it.

It’s not going to be pleasant and it’s not going to be easy, but puttting In an hour or two of hard graft might produce that scene you needrd to glue it all together.

Leave it and come back later.

I work chronologically so doing this is my least favourite way of doing things. However, if you write scene by scene then glue it together at the end, this way will work really well for you.

Whichever you choose to do, don’t give up on that novel. Your characters deserve a voice, and you don’t want to stop the world from knowing as much about them as you do, do you? Don’t let one little lock stop you from giving them a chance to be heard.

Why I write.

 

Some bits from my first draft

Hello, first draft!

When the wonderful Michelle from The American Resident asked if anyone would like to answer some questions about writing, I jumped at the chance. There’s one thing you can always guarantee about a writer: they LOVE to talk about writing. This is because it feels like we’re working on our writing while we’re doing it. So, having been passed a very exciting and prestigious baton, I’ll tell you what’s been going on.

 

What am I working on?

Actually, there are two projects on the go right now and both are taking me out of my comfort zone.

The first is the remnants of the most recent Camp NaNoWriMo in April and is a twisted fantasy where I’ve been making up the rules as I go along.

Writing fantasy is hard.

I’ll say it again: writing fantasy is hard.

The most challenging thing I’m finding is remembering the new rules of physics and making the novel clever enough to return to previous storylines.  I’m finding the twists more difficult in fantasy because there is an expectation that nothing is as it seems. It is entirely possible that my first draft is more poop than your average first draft and all first drafts are poop.  However; it’s most of the way to the end and the rest is plotted out so some may suggest the hard work is done.

We all know that writing the damn thing is just the beginning of the hard work.

The second project is a piece of non-fiction which I’m procrastinating about writing. It’s a research project that I have “accidentally” been doing for years and it’s time I put my data to good use. I love to study people and I’m fascinated by the Internet and our interaction with it.  I’ve written fiction about it a few times and I’ve decided that now it’s time to take what I know and what I’ve found and all the other things that are flying around in my head and dump on the page to see what happens.  It  might work. It might not. You don’t know until you try.

 

How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?

I’m not certain that differing is always a good thing. People like familiarity.

In short, my work differs because it is mine and no one else’s. I write about very personal memories and try to bring in a real depth to my characters. I also think this is a trait shared by all writers.

The fantasy I’ve written is accidentally similar to Pratchett. I think that’s more because his books hold the standard for fantasy and I’ve just followed the cut and stick guidelines for standard fantasy writing.

 

Why do I write what I do?

I write because I love the challenge. I like to try different genres and styles because I like to push my abilities and see where my boundaries lie.  Bits of the non-fiction book are going to be written as you would write an academic paper because I want to try it, although I realise this style is heavy to read. (The research requires me to read a lot of academic papers on the subject so I know how much of a headache that can be. Maybe it’s time we stopped the world of academia churning out heavy papers and gave them a standard that they could share with the rest of the world? No one said research results have to be difficult to understand unless you’re privvy to the ways of Higher Education.)

I write what I do because I get images in my head. I get snippets of dialogue and faces and actions. Then I sit and write and get more and more things about my darlings until they’re there, on the page, fleshed out with personalities I had never even considered for them. It’s quite fascinating how it all comes together.

 

How does my writing process work?

I start with a vague idea. I generally have five or six of these brewing at any one time. Sometimes I do a brainstorm of things I might like to happen. This process starts way before I even think about the first words.  I have a journal that I keep, not regularly, but I like to write my thoughts in there and sometimes, these thoughts include ideas for the story. I also keep a lot of notes on my phone.

When the big day hits, I begin and try to keep up a steady pace.  This never happens and I end up binge-writing — writing nothing for two or three days then writing 4000 or 5000 words in an evening.

I usually prepare a playlist of songs that bring on the most visual imagery relating to the story for me. This becomes my music for the writing phase.

The plan after that is to go with the flow. Stick to the basic outline but don’t worry too much if it meanders.  I have stories where I’ve written things in and out of chapters and left loose ends dangling.  The most important thing for me is to get those words down, get the scenes out of my head and let the characters reveal themselves.  Once they’re out there and I’m beginning to know them it makes writing their stories much easier.

Non-fiction writing seems to consist, so far, of research. I’m reading a lot of blogs and papers and having a lot of discussions with friends about the subject. Nothing is set in stone yet, although I have the odd question I have jotted down to try to answer. I should imagine my best ideas are coming out in (quite ironically, given the subject matter) chat sessions online. We shall see. It’s all in its very early stages and a very new adventure.

 

If you’ve enjoyed this, please go and look at Michelle’s blog. I know Michelle through our online writing group and our trusted feedback group. She is a valuable member to both and an extremely talented writer. Her experiences as an expat add a broad and deep insight to her writing.

Sadly, I haven’t been able to get people to agree to continue this trend, which is a shame, because it’s a lovely bloghop to do and a great opportunity to think about what we’re writing and why we’re writing it. If you’d like to know more about the people in our feedback group and how fabulous they are, read this.