Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Little Things

Short post (and slightly late this week).

Autumn walks, 
Golden leaves on the trees,
Sunday lunch, 
Harry Potter, 

Friday, 24 October 2014

Why NaNo is great... but why I'm not doing it.

I wrote last year about the many reasons why I wasn't doing NaNo then and why it didn't work for me anymore. Those points still stand for this year. But as it's once again October and everyone starts talking about it again, I thought that I would expand on that post slightly, and write again about why I'm not NaNoing, but why I think it's a very useful exercise to do.

The thing about NaNo is that it is great for both getting first drafts down (and first drafts only), first time writers, and people who just want to write something once a year. It is a great motivation - I find that the deadline fear pushes me on, and it is a great tool to get you writing every day. After doing NaNo for seven years, the routine and feeling that you must write something every day (not necessarily 1667 words but something) has stuck with me and proved to be an important part of motivating me. I like to write something every day, and thanks to NaNo I do.

The other great thing about NaNo is that it proves to you that you CAN do it. That it is possible to write a draft of a novel. It is a great way to finish something and realise that you can do it. Rather than just starting things all the time and never finishing. I remember when I first did it, when I was seventeen (I think?), the realisation that I could finish something that was a story, a complete story, "a novel" and not a fanfic story (because I made a rule to myself never to write fanfic for NaNo) was a revelation. I didn't have to keep thinking one day, because it happened, and it was marvellous. I am always thankful to one of my school friends for telling me about NaNo - it changed the way I thought about writing!

However, I'm working on so many different things at the moment that I don't see the point of committing, and I do not think that I have ever seriously gone back to a NaNo project and edited it.  And for that reason it seems like a futile exercise.

Reasons NaNo IS a good thing to do:
1. for first time writers,
2. for getting words down on the page,
3. for getting into a routine,
4. FOR FINISHING something,
5. and for knowing that YOU can do it.

Things to remember about NaNo:
1. It produces a first draft. Not a novel. It doesn't have to be perfect. It won't be perfect.
2. Don't send your draft to agents/publishers, it will need a lot of work.
3. Put it away after it's over for a while.
4. Don't worry about perfection or plans or what you're writing. Just write because you want to and you love the story.
5. It doesn't work for everyone.
6. Enjoy it!

Who's doing NaNo this year? Any thoughts/tips to add?

Thursday, 23 October 2014

And the winds came...

This week we've been experiencing the tail end of the recent hurricane that swept over Bermuda. It's meant that it's been very blustery and certainly weather for staying inside and curling up with a good book!

The weather has definitely turned more autumnal, and with that it's grown colder and very muddy! It's also getting dark rather early, which is a little depressing. But I suppose it's good weather for reading books and crafty projects. However, it makes it quite hard to leave the house!

As I've remarked before, it's nice to be back in the countryside for autumn and see it all gradually change.

Some of the trees are such beautiful colours too:

Have a good week everyone (and wrap up warm with a good book!).

Monday, 20 October 2014

Tips picked up at "Writing YA" masterclass

I mentioned earlier in the week that I had attended an event put on by Bloomsbury and the Writer and Artist's Yearbook called "Writing YA" with Sarah Crossan and Julia Churchill.It was a fantastic event, great to meet some fellow writers, including some of the writers from my SCBWI e-critique group - great to finally put some faces to the stories (even if my mind did go temporarily blank and forget who was writing what).

The evening was full of lots of useful advice, and I thought I'd gather some together here, together with some of the tweets by Ellie Gibbons, who works for Writers and Artists/Bloomsbury!

Sarah Crossan (author of Apple and Rain, The Weight of Water, and Breathe) spoke first about her own writing experiences and tips.

On voice, Sarah said that for YA novels, the voice needs to be immediate, and so she writes in first person, present. She also used several examples to show that the first pages of many novels either have lots of blank spaces, or use lots of questions or question marks as a good way to get into the story. The tone too should be informal, relaxed.

Of course, Sarah pointed out, that all these rules are made to be broken! 

One of the things that stood out to me however and really resonated, was the idea that all the ugly experiences we have give us unique voices, but these experiences have to be put onto something else (if that makes sense).
Sarah also suggested that teenager's voices are often unreliable, just because they don't know any different.

On story, Sarah said that you must remember that concept and story are very different. The characters need to grow throughout the story and get to a better place by the end.
Another thing that really resonated, was that the things that REALLY matter to teens are often the little things that we don't worry about anymore. The small things, which feel huge at the time.

Julia Churchill spoke after Sarah and gave some more general tips on submissions and the submission process. Julia said that she looks for SIX things in submissions:


Those were some of the highlights from the night! It really was a very inspiring night and filled with me lots of ideas, inspiration, and a new clarity - making me determined to get very focused again!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Little Things (6)

Another week has flown by, and we are very much in autumn!

Here are some things from this week:

Autumn leaves, 
Golden trees,
The writing community, 
Writing friends, 
Writing days, 

Friday, 17 October 2014

A Magical Year

MuggleNet celebrated fifteen years the other week. MuggleNet is a site that I’ve known about for a long time, and always used to visit for my Potter news. For Potter fans it’s a go to resource for news and information about the Potter world.

And then a year ago, I happened to see on Twitter a call for applications for journalism interns. And I thought, well, why not. I’ll give it a shot. Writing and Harry Potter – two of my favourite things. It would be perfect - I wanted something new to do, a new challenge, and I wanted to be develop my writing skills. So, I sent the email off and forgot about it. I never thought I’d ever be picked.

But a few days later a wonderful email dropped into my inbox. The email told me that I had been chosen as one of the interns. I don’t know how I managed to compose an email back that wasn’t full of OMG/I CAN’T BELIEVE IT/THANK YOU SO MUCH. But somehow I did (in fact, I think I underplayed it quite a lot).

And so the journey began.

I couldn’t believe that I was lucky enough to be a part of that amazing team and be able to write things that were posted on MUGGLENET itself. It was a dream come true, and very, very surreal. I threw myself in there, with plenty of enthusiasm and determination to do well.

And then, by December I received an email to tell me that I was being promoted to a full time staff member if I wanted it. If I wanted it - of course I did! Despite receiving the email so early in the morning, I was bouncing around delighted, because I couldn't believe it - I couldn't believe that they wanted me and I had discovered that it was something that I adored doing. And it was a bonus that everyone on the team was very welcoming, happy to help out with any questions, queries or issues, and lots of fun as well. I was a bit nervous of everyone at first, but soon settled in. It was a wonderful thing to be a part of, and it was amazing to feel part of the Potter world in a way that I never had before. And it was so good to be surrounded by people who cared as much as I did. I kept it to myself for a while, because I loved it so much and it was special and I just loved being a part of it. I was soon given my own MuggleNet email address, invited to my first staff meeting, and started helping out with some things for the upcoming site relaunch. And just like that I was thrown in in the most wonderful way.

Since then, the year has flown by, but it has been amazing and so magical. I have been able to attend the Studio Tour TWICE for the site, writing up a review about it, reviewed books, written countless articles, helped out with other projects on the site, and helped to solve that J.K. Rowling anagram she posted on Twitter, as well as other things I'm sure I've missed. I have made wonderful friends and over the summer even met Toni in person, one of the other writers who started at the same time that I did. I have been given a whole new world and I adore it. It's impossible to quite explain and describe all my feeling towards this, and how much I LOVE it.

Once again, I find that I have to thank Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling for so much. And of course the wonderful team at MuggleNet for taking me on and letting me be a part of all of this. So thank you all for such an amazing year. It's been incredible. It's amazing to be part of such a hardworking, dedicated, and enthusiastic team. Thank you for EVERYTHING. And I look forward to what's next and all the magical things to come.Here's to another magical year!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Country girl in the Big City

It's Thursday again - how did that happen?

This week has been a little more manic than ususal, i.e. I have had stuff on that menas being out the house all day and that means I am now exhausted! And unfortuantely haven't had much writing time. *sob*. I am wriitng a Christmas story though, which is very exciting, inspired by Stephanie Perkins' My True Love Gave to Me collection, which is utterly wonderful, in so many ways. If you want to feel Christmassy or just love Christmas, warm stories or brilliant writing, GO GET THIS COLLECTION NOW!

Anyway, that was not meant to be the point of this blog post!

On Tuesday I ventured out of my small country world, and up to the big smoke (i.e. London) for the first time in ageeeeees. It's always weird and stressful arriving in London and realising just how many people there are and that you have to go on the tube and things like that. And there are too many distractions,  like the new Foyles, where it is far too easy to buy too many books - not that this happened to me at all *cough cough*.

Nice as it was to have a change of scene, it was utterly EXHAUSTING and I couldn't wait to get back home again and SLEEP!

But, in the evening I was due to the attend a Bloomsbury Writers and Artists Yearbook masterclass, called Writing YA fiction - Breaking the Rules with author Sarah Crossan and agent Julia Churchill. The evening was fantastic, and really reinspired me, and gave me lots of things to think about. (Also, walking in, it was great to see some HP books in their bookcases.) It's always good to regather your thoughts and refocus. Now, I just need to get on and use that info. It was also wonderful to meet some of the scbwi people I know from my online critique group - great to finally put some faces to the names and stories, although I had a complete blank when meeting them and couldn't remember who had written what. They put me to complete shame, remembering exactly what I had written! Sorry guys. But it was wonderful to meet them and I was very glad that I had gone to the event. Sarah Crossan was also WONDERFUL. I saw her speak at YALC over the summer, and that was one reason why I thought this would be a great event to go to.

I'll try and write up some of the things that were said later in the week, but for now, I am going to try and crack on with some writing, grateful to be back in the countryside! 

Monday, 13 October 2014

Writing about writing...

Autumn has arrived and time seems to be flying by. I realised that although I call this a writing blog, I am blogging very little about writing - which needs to change! And so, I will try to write a little  more about writing, I promise!

Let's start with, where am I at the moment?

Well, I recently finished a draft that I had left languishing at 19k, and hit 50k last week and a very rough, horrible first draft, BUT at least I have a story to play with now. The words are down. Sort of. They just need some playing around with. But I'm leaving that for now, so that the ideas can simmer away in the back of my mind. So, I'm working on editing a draft I wrote over the summer, and getting that up to something decent. I made lots of notes for it, and although I love the thrill of the first draft, sometimes editing can be just as exciting, especially when you have lots of ideas of where to go and what to do. Luckily, I still love this story and want it to be the best it can be. I've just got a little way to go!

What else am I doing writing wise?

Well, I'm trying to write more regular blog posts on here, and I also started vlogging (I know, we'll see how that goes - lesson being learnt is that it takes FOREVER to upload things to Youtube. But it's rather fun).

I'm happy with my writing at the moment though. I had a brief phase in September after I'd handed my dissertation in, was exhausted, and unsure where I was going, where I doubted everything and could barely write a word or settle on anything. Luckily that black cloud seems to have passed, and I'm pleased to be really focused on something.

And I'm brainstorming notes for something I might start writing next.

The trouble is, when I start thinking about all the different things I want to write I start to panic, so I'm trying not to do that, and just staying focused on one thing at a time....

So tell me, what are YOU writing at the moment?

Sunday, 12 October 2014

The Little Things (5)

Following on from my post this week about autumn, thinking today about some autumn things.

That smell when you turn radiators on for the first time,
Raindrops on spiders webs,
Leaves crunching underfoot, 
Autumn sunshine, 
Warming foods, like bananas and custard, casserole, baked apples, 
Snuggling down in a warm duvet, 
Hot chocolate, 
Cosy books, 
Costume dramas, 
Wellies and raincoats. 

Friday, 10 October 2014

the things people leave behind

It is rather evident in my writing that I am obsessed not only with big houses, but with secrets and letters, desks, and forgotten things. So, when I found myself sorting out my mum's old desk the other day I didn't know what I might find. Of course as a child (and a rather nosy one at that), it had been once of those places that was forbidden, but so, so tempting. Otherwise, how else would you know what was really going on, or what was being written about you, or your siblings? I never really peeked (not really), but beginning to sort these things out, I did feel like that nosy, naughty child again.

Sorting out old things is always way more moving than I anticipate it to be. No matter how much you might be geared up to doing something, such as sorting a desk out, the reality of it doesnt' hit you until you're in the midst of it. After all, all these things have been kept for a reason, by someone who cared about them. It always feels like a strange intrusion to go through, even though they'll never be able to look at them again. It's hard sometimes as well to know what to keep. The temptation to keep every scrap of paper and every card just because of the handwriting and the acknowledgement that they once existed is too strong, especially for me, because I hoard an awful lot of stuff. And once you throw something away, you wonder if you should have done that. But you can't keep everything.

The past, family stories, and memories are all very well, but until you are holding something tangible in your hands it is hard to believe that any of it was ever real (something my characters often find in my stories).

And there's not only the cards or scraps of paper that you find, with handwriting that you want to keep just because it's the handwriting you recognise and remember and don't want to forget, but the objects too. The things that you don't know if they might have a story, some sort of tale to tell or if you're placing too much emphasis on it just because it's there.

And within all these things, you find letters, things hidden away. Letters from other people, thank you cards, or notes. It's an odd feeling, like you're intruding.

Sorting my mum's desk I found all this. It's a weird feeling. It's something you feel that you want to do, you need to do, but once you start, it unleashes so much, and part of you wishes that you'd left it there forever, preserved, just the way it is.

We also came across a bunch of my granny's letters and poems, which again feels like an intrusion, something very private, but also something left behind. Again it's that thing of trying to unite the person you knew, and in the case of grandparents, someone elderly with the young person in pictures and letters and writings.

It's a draining exercise, but also rewarding, and fulfilling in an odd way. Moving too.

But I suppose, there is a reason why people love archives, and looking through someone's papers or writings.It's funny too because this is something that I'm very much exploring in the book that I'm editing at the moment - in it the main character discovers things from her Gran's past, and - well, I won't say more as I'm still editing, but that theme is very much prevalent.

Desks are funny things aren't they?

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Autumn Notes

Wait, was yesterday Wednesday?

I’ve completely lost track of the days and time recently, which perhaps is a luxury, but also rather disconcerting. 

It's funny really, when you're in a town or a city, the seasons just change. It happens, and sure you notice it, but not in the same way. It's difficult to put my finger on just what it is that is different, but there's something. 

It's the first autumn that I've been at home in six years? And before that it had been five years - except for the odd weekend here and there. It's different though, when you just come back for holidays, weekends, or "special occasions". Then everything is special, exciting, different, if you know what I mean. You just experience everything in a flash, a clip. Now, things are different - you see everything in a constant stream, like a panorama or something. It's nice to see it change slowly, and then all at once (I'm sounding like a quote from TIFOS now, sorry John Green. Oops). 

But you see the gradual changes as well as the quick ones  -such as the leaves all slowly turning brown, or all whizzing by the window on a particularly blustery day, or the continual rain falling down. 

The evenings are getting darker now, the dark drawing in and even some of the afternoons are dark and gloomy. The wind is getting up too and from my window I can see it whipping through the trees. 

It's welly weather, and dashing out in between rain showers, and huddling under duvets in the evening - although having said that, it's not all that cold yet - and bananas and custard, warming food eating weather. 

Suddenly everything looks bare, like the facade of summer has been taken away, stripped away, leaving this,almost as if summer was nothing more than a shimmering illusion, just something to fool us for a while before it's gone again, and we're left waiting for it to come back. For now, we're going to have to find some autumn things to focus on.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Little Things (4)

Autumn has really come now. The temperature has dropped quite a lot. But it's a gorgeous day.

Dew on the grass,
Sitting outside in October, 
Long autumn walks, 
Fresh autumn days, 
Cosy duvets, 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Harvest Celebrations

This week saw the harvest festival celebrations take place. Having always been away over the last few years when it took place, I hadn't been to our local, village one in a while, so it was nice to go again. The service was followed by a lovely bring and share lunch.

It is now October and it is clear that the seasons are changing. It is still unseasonably warm, which means shorts are just about still an option, but it's definitely changing.  Today is rainy and glum. The leaves on the trees are slowly changing, becoming golden and orange. While I bemoan the passing of summer, and wish that it could stay a little longer, the colours of autumn are something wonderful.

What else to say?

I can't believe that it is already October. I don't know where the time has gone - where did September disappear to? It is quite unbelievable.

The nights are already beginning to draw in much earlier, and later this month the clocks will change, and we will be cloaked in darkness from late afternoon.

You definitely notice, and I had forgotten quite how much, the seasons changing in the countryside more noticeably, and I like that. I like seeing it all change, much as I'm reluctant to admit that it's now Autumn!