Monthly Archives: May 2014

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.

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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.

An interview with Aimee Horton

Mothers Ruined

Mothers Ruined

Aimee Horton, author of the Survival Series, talks to me about writing and her new novel – Survival of the Ginnest: Mothers Ruined

Her first book, Survival of the Ginnest, began the story of Dottie Harris and is presented to the reader in social media status style, making it one-of-a-kind. The only problem with this is that it leaves you thirsty for more Dottie. Aimee, not wanting to disappoint, released a witty short at Christmas and has now placed Dottie and her family in their own full length novel. This time, Dottie’s having another baby (while her husband is away on business), moving house and using what she’s accidentally overheard on the baby monitors to forge new friendships with her neighbours.

The Survival series

The Survival series

Me: Tell us what it was like to examine Dottie’s personality in more detail.

Aimee: I love Dottie! She’s like a nicer more loving version of me. It was interesting to see how she built her relationships with her friends and children.

Me: How did you use your own experiences in your writing?

Aimee: I have a feeling all my characters have some of my tendancies and personalities, that’s why I know them so well. I always try and laugh at things rather than get upset, so it’s in my nature to make everyday life a bit more exaggerated and comical.

Me: Your blog is packed with wit. How do you hold on to the humour in the darker moments?

Aimee: Gin. Other times I just have a good old cry and feel better!

Me: Tell us a bit about your writing ambitions.

Aimee: I think they’re fairly boring – I just want to write stories that make people laugh or think. If people enjoy what I write (and I can afford to feed my children!) I’m happy.

Me: How do you break good ol’ writer’s block?

Aimee: Music, have a dance around the room! Or go shopping – it’s an excellent excuse to look at shoes.

Me: What do you do when you’re writing and you get an idea for another novel?

Aimee: I write it down, I have to at least get a few hundred words down somewhere otherwise it won’t leave me alone!

Aimee is also a busy mum to two boys. She blogs about her experiences with touching insight and unwavering humour at www.passthegin.co.uk
Her books can be found on Amazon.

A new office

Every now and again, I see a post showing off someone’s beautiful office. They usually have a gorgeous desk, some inspirational quotes, a cork board covered in ideas and brainstorms and a computer which doesn’t look like they’re trying out retrocomputing.

When I see these pictures, always artistic shots with well chosen filters, I’m jealous. Green with envy.

I have a few of the required ingredients:

Desk? Check (covered in dry Cheerios).
Computer? Check (reboots at random intervals. Can’t be bothered to troubleshoot the problem as it’s eight years old.)
Cork board? No. (But I wouldn’t want to cover up the “artwork” my children have kindly drawn on the magnolia paintwork.)
Peace and quiet? Not a hope.

As you can see, not really a writing haven. Most of my writing takes place on my sofa on my smartphone because it’s actually more powerful than the aforementioned computer.

Time to try something new.

The idea of a writing shed isn’t really new as such, but it filled me with excitement. I picked out my favourite, planned the interior and came up with insulation solutions only to realise it would be completely impractical in our garden.

Disheartened, I returned to sulking on the sofa being pounced on by cats while small children stuck their fingers up my nose.

What else could possibly keep me dry, sane and offer a place to get away?

A tent, of course!

When I get going, I like to really do my research so I came up with a list of attributes I needed to have in what I’d soon come to call my Anywhere Office.

1. Needs to be tall enough to sit in
2. Needs to have a sewn in groundsheet.
3. Needs to be easy to put up and easy to put down.

The answer came to me from Gelert. What I was looking for was a festival tent.

Not designed for hardcore camping (and I would never expect my usage to reach that level) the tent I ended up purchasing is the Quickpitch 2 . I chose black because I’m secretly a bit of a goth and I didn’t realise it had “Beer Tent” pasted all over the ends until I received it. I think this adds to the charm.

image

I added an Anywhere Chair and Low Table from Go Outdoors and a couple of other bits:

image

Now I have an office with everything a writer could need with the added bonus of being able to go anywhere.

image

(With added kitten.)

I love my Beer Tent Office.

This post is not sponsored by any of the companies mentioned above

When writing is real

We’ve all heard the words “write what you know” at some point in our writing careers. If you’re writing fantasy or sci-fi or speculative fiction or some romance or…well, it’s not always possible. Perhaps it should be changed to “write what you can imagine.”

My first NaNoWriMo tackled bullying in the 90’s. The story is centred around a girl who has never quite fit in and how the cruelty of the others at the all girls’ secondary school drives her to madness.

As part of the story, the main character creates a purple teddy which she calls Normal. He becomes her rock and is symbolic of her sanity.

My mother is a very talented knitter, so after I explained some of the story, I was given a gift:

image

This is Normal.

The second draft of the novel will include him more extensively.

Writing can, and often does, invade our lives in ways we thought impossible.

Here’s to my very own glimpse of Normal.