Category Archives: Writing

During the 11 Other Months

Just remember that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him. – Stephen King.

For those of you who don’t know (and who are you if you don’t?!) Dumbo is a Disney movie about a baby elephant with very large ears. Dumbo is teased by the other elephants and befriends a mouse called Timothy. Timothy tells Dumbo he would be able to fly with his ears but Dumbo doesn’t believe him until Timothy produces a “magical” feather which will give him flying abilities. Dumbo flaps his large ears, and is able to fly. At the climax of the movie, Dumbo loses the “magical” feather, but instead of falling, he learns that the ability to fly was always within him and the feather was just the guide to get him to where he was always capable of being.

Think of NaNoWriMo as the feather. You have the ability to write a novel, it’s built within you. But it’s not always easy to start if you don’t know how. Sometimes it’s nice to have a guide, to have something taking you by the hand and showing you the way. That is what NaNoWriMo is. NaNoWriMo isn’t the novel, it’s the power that makes you believe you can do it.

Back in 2003, when I started NaNoing, I wrote all the time. I wrote (bad) poetry, and short stories. I had whole notebooks full of snippets of ideas, random paragraphs, and stanzas for poems. I had doodles as I worked things out and ideas mapped out for somethings. I loved that. I loved carrying around a notebook full of random creative thoughts. So what if most of them didn’t pan out to be anything – it was fun. (I still have those notebooks in a box somewhere. They’re great to read.)

But as I got older, and NaNo became an ingrained part of my life, I stopped writing so much. I no longer write short stories because I struggle to come up with short and sweet ideas that can be wrapped up in a few thousands words. (I definitely don’t write teen angst poetry but I feel that’s more my age than my writing ability.) My writing ability seems to be entirely focused on full novels. Considering I don’t plan that much in advance, it’s strange that that’s how my mind works. But not only do I find I’m more leaning towards novel writing now, I find if I try and write in any sort of depth or for length of time at any other time of year other than November, I fail. I find I don’t have the drive, the desire to write during any other month.

In many ways, NaNoWriMo is my magical feather

Of course NaNoWriMo is a nice little bundle of novelling. It gives you everything you need. You get a timeframe to write, a deadline to meet, supporting people from all over the world, pep talks from real authors, and lots of metaphorical cookies and poking (and real, if you go to write-ins and that’s how your region is inclined). It’s perfect! NaNo wraps you in this neat little writing world, and it’s amazingly awesome.

After 11 years, I find the rest of the year is a little less coloured when it comes to writing.

But sometimes I find myself saying “I can’t write outside of November”. Well, why not? Apart from the community, what’s really stopping me? I can obviously write, and I can obviously write a novel in a month. So I’m using the wrong phrasing. I “can” write outside of November, but part of is me choosing not to. I think part of me is scared of trying without the feather.

But you know what? Right now, it’s totally okay to cling to the feather. Cuddle it, name it. Embrace the feather. It is teaching you what you weren’t ready to believe. But in December, when it goes missing, you can still fly.

Just spread those wings.

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Angel Fever in North London

L.A. Weatherly

Have you ever met someone you admire and like, only to find they are a truely wonderful person and walk away feeling inspired and excited to achieve what they have achieved?

Today I did that.

L.A. Weatherly is the author of the ‘Angel’ series – Angel, Angel Fire, and Angel Fever. It’s a brilliant YA trilogy where angels are coming down from Heaven to Earth to live amongst humans. The catch? They’re also sucking the life force from the very humans who worship them, eventually causing their death. If you’re touched by an angel, you can only see them as true and good. Which leaves those who haven’t been touched by angels left to fight for the human race. Throw in some half angels, and a less than straightforward romance, and voila! One very thrilling post-apocolyptic trilogy. Highly recommended.

Lee has been touring the UK the last few days, visiting Waterstones stores and signing books. The great thing is you didn’t have to have bought her book from Waterstones to get it signed! She just wanted to meet fans, promote the series in store, and talk about her new trilogy (out next year). This was brilliant as I bought the last two books in Foyles.

Upon meeting Lee, I decided she was lovely. I’ve exchanged a few tweets here and there on Twitter before but she was genuinely lovely in person. We chatted for a minute about her new series, and she signed my copy of Angel Fever, and I got a picture.  She was giving away badges, and bookmarks, and chocolate. Definitely worth the 45 minute tube journey to get there. I left happy (and bought Neil Gaiman’s ‘America Gods’ from Waterstones as well).

Angel Fever

In another store I found a little Christmas badge. It was an angel made of tinsel with flashing lights embedded in it. I couldn’t resist. I bought it and went back to find Lee chatting with a staff member. Cautiously interrupting the conversation, I presented my find, we figured out how to get it flashing and she promptly wore it.

And then we talked for 20 minutes.

My original impression was spot on. She was absolutely lovely, great to talk to. I dropped in that I was a writer and she instantly asked what I wrote usually, what I was working on, how it was going, and how far along I was with editing. I explained the basic outline of We All Fall Down. (I’m not great at explaining it to normal people, explaining it to a published author who’s work I like is a lot harder!) But! she said she liked the sound of it, and that it sounded a great concept. WINNING!

I mentioned NaNoWriMo and how it got me started on novel writing, and we discussed the importance of having a supportive background. I’m very lucky that my family have always been supportive, and Boyfriend is too. As much as he jokes about distracting me from doing NaNo, he’s aware I’d be very upset if he actually prevented me from writing. And he’s super supportive of my editing.

We talked about non-writing too. She told me about the road trips she took for research and I talked about my job and working on a summer camp in the States (summer 2011, Minnesota).

I also got general advise. Lee suggested looking into finding a suitable writing group to get further support, help, and ideas. She also said how important it was to just keep going, even if you get rejected, to not give up. Which is absolutely right. Stephen King used to collect rejection slips on a nail on the wall of his bedroom. He used it to drive himself until it was successful, and look where he is now! If you want something badly enough and are willing to put in the time and effort, you will eventually get it. I fully believe this.

Overall, a great way to spend part of my Saturday.

Lee, it was an absolutely pleasure meeting and chatting with you. Buying that little flashing angel was a great decision. If I am ever published and get to do signings, I’m going to be as lovely to my fans are you are to yours. You’re an inspiration.

Have a good weekend everyone!

www.leeweatherly.com

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Behind the Magic

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Last Saturday, Boyfriend and I had free tickets to go and watch ‘Catchphrase’ being filmed. For those not in the know, Catchphrase is a Saturday night TV show from the 80s which has recently been re-done. It involves contestants seeing an animation on a big screen and identifying the catchphrase. For example, we saw one where a guy was having a drink in a pub with a big cheque. Answer? Checkmate. (A mate who is a cheque!) Literally, “say what you see”. Simples!

The show is actually about 20 minutes long once you add in the advert breaks. We were in the studio for three hours. It was a lot more interesting than we expected. The set was a lot smaller than it looks on TV, and you get to see just how much is re-shot. Sometimes over and over. The presenter would say a sentence, pause, then repeat it slightly differently without missing a beat. Of course in the final cut, it would look seemless.

At the end, the presenter was filmed making puzzled faces at the camera, and pointing to where the contestants had been and saying their names over in various ways, and making random comments. This, of course, will be cut into the final edit and it will look like he’s reacting to the contestants in front of him, when he was really talking to thin air!

It wasn’t just three hours of watching bits be re-filmed. There was a lot of breaks and set checks and things, and we had a great entertainer to chat to the audience and keep us amused between filming. He would jump in any moment filming was over. It was great.

So, why am I talking about this? Other than it’s something different to do on a wet and windy Saturday afternoon, it goes to show just how much goes on behind the scenes that the audience never knows about. This is the same with other TV shows, movies, and even writing. How many times have you edited something, only to move whole chapters about? How many times have you inserted a character half way through and had to go back and enter the backstory afterwards? Have you ever written the ending first? This is all behind the scenes goings on that the audience (the reader) never sees. These are the secrets behind the front image. The audience doesn’t get to see the sweat and blood and rewrites and edits. They don’t get to see the swearing, the bad times, the times when nothing goes right. They don’t see the characters who just won’t behave.

The audience only sees the final product.

But that’s okay. It wouldn’t be as sexy if they saw behind the scenes. No-one wants to see an author slumped over a stained desk in their favourite oversized PJs, half a mug of cold forgotten coffee by their hand. They want to see the shiny prettiness when you’ve done the hard work.

And likewise you don’t always want to see what a mess your favourite TV show is before you get involved in it. But sometimes it can be fun to understand the effort that goes into something you enjoy. It can be enlightening.

If you have the chance, be nosey. It doesn’t always ruin the magic, and you might get an interesting insight into the unknown.

And if someone asks to see how you work out of curiosity, think about letting them. They might learn from you.

Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone

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I am your typical introverted writer and reader. Often my ideal Friday night is a good book, a mug of hot chocolate, and a movie I know backwards for background noise.

But every so often I get the urge to do more with my life. I live in London but don’t know all that many people. I feel that’s not right. This is a big city, there’s lots to do, and I should have options on the nights when I don’t want to curl up and read. So, I recently signed up to MeetUp.com – a website of groups to join where you can meet like minded people. On Saturday night I bit the bullet and signed up to a pub quiz meet up for 20 something year olds (the group is actually called ‘20somethings’ – does what it says on the tin), which took place last night.

There is something to be said about going outside your comfort zone. There’s the nerves, the anticipation, and the excitement. There’s that slight adrenaline rush as you take the final step, and the surge of pride that you’re conquering something.

NaNoWriMo 2014 is 7 ½ weeks away (I know…). If it’s something you’ve never done, then you may be feeling part of what I describe above. Hey, even if you have done it before, you may still feel it! In my eleventh year (!), NaNo is very much part of my comfort zone now. It would be much weirder to do the year without it, and probably more stressful (odd as it sounds) to not have NaNo in my life. But, for many, it is a huge jump from the comfort zone circle. Or square. Or decagon. Take your pick of shape – it’s your zone.

In some ways, parts of writing are going out of your comfort zone, too. Typing the first sentence of a new novel is always a leap of faith, even for the seasoned writers. No matter how much planning you do, taking that first step is always going to require a deep breath beforehand. And then there’s the genre. Do you write about something you’ve not written before? That’s always a bit nerve-wracking. What about something you struggle with? Do you focus on it or avoid it?

I remember in my second year at university, one of my creative writing tasks was to write a dialogue heavy piece. I have always disliked writing dialogue and will fall back on description when I can do, rather than transcribe a conversation. I remember feeling unhappy that I was being forced to do this, But at the end of the day, I was there to learn, so I took a breath, stepped out of my zone, and tried to write a comedic little piece geniously called “The Tea Argument”. It wasn’t anything inspiring. If I remember rightly, it was supposed to be just dialogue but I still had to slip in a few paragraphs of description every few lines. It wasn’t very good, but I do remember feeling proud about it at the time! (I still dislike dialogue, but I can face it much better than I could a few years ago.)

I think it’s healthy for the soul to do something new, something scary. I believe it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said “Do one thing everyday that scares you.” Everyday may be a bit much, but the feeling is there. I recently read this article on exactly this. It said that whilst it’s good to expand your wings, every so often you should retreat to your comfort zone to take stock on your new achievements, and relax with something familiar knowing that you can do whatever you want. 

Take the leap, do something new. Skydive, smile at the cute stranger on the bus, write in a genre you have never tried before. Go and meet strangers in a pub quiz in Shoreditch.

(For the record, I had an amazing night. I spoke to someone out of choice within five seconds of walking into the pub, and found myself approaching people during the course of the night just to say ‘hi’. It was a lot of fun anyway, and I came away feeling very happy and pleased that I was able to just be sociable with complete strangers without waiting for someone to approach me first. I wasn’t the quiet girl sat in the corner. I made friends who asked if I was attending the Friday night event as well. I was out of my comfort zone, and it felt good.)

Making Use of the Night

When I was a student, my most active hours were between about 1am and 5am. (Which I guess was typical of most students.) When I was unemployed, it was the same. I am definitely not a morning person and the afternoons just seem a waste of good napping time. Unfortunately, being an adult and in a 9 to 5 job, I kinda of have to be awake during the day and asleep during the night when really I’d like it to be the other way around. I spent most of my first year at university being nocturnal and found no problems (other than missing lectures, I suppose…)

Lately, I’ve discovered something both sweet and annoying. If my boyfriend is at home, I find it hard getting to sleep without him being in the bed. If he’s away for the night, I can sleep just fine, but if I know he’s in, I can’t get to sleep easily and if I wake up in the middle of the night, I’ll be awake for two hours. I think it’s because I can hear him moving around and once I’m awake, my brain latches onto the noises in the flat. (Or it’s because I mwiss him and want him to snuggle… and yes the ‘w’ was supposed to be there. Romantics, take your pick.)

But if I wake up around 2am and find myself quite awake and no sign of returning to sleep, why don’t I make use of the time? Everyone has a productive time of the day (Boyfriend’s is 11pm to 4am, so he’s a night owl, too, but doesn’t have to be up for work so can embrace his owlishness) and should utilise it when they can. So what if it’s the middle of the night? During NaNoWriMo, I have definitely gotten up in the night to write when I’ve woken and ideas have struck. So, what’s stopping me from doing it now? I don’t tend to go on my netbook when I get in from work because I’ve spent the day staring at a computer screen and don’t wish to spend my evening doing it as well. But if I’m awake at 2am, and clearly not going back to sleep until 4am, why not get creative AND stay in bed? Solution? Writing. I can even start keeping my netbook in the bedroom rather than the living room and I don’t even have to move to get it (I can reach the desk from the edge of the bed – our room is a comfy size but not huge. You can definitely reach everywhere from the bed. (Win.))

I know that getting up and turning on a brightly lit screen and engaging in an activity which will only make my brain more awake seems a contradictive idea when I’m really aiming to turn my brain off, but I figure that if I’m going to be awake anyway (you know those times when you’ve woken up and are REALLY awake and you just know it’s going to be awhile before you go back to sleep) then what’s the difference between lying in the dark, checking my clock and working out if I went to sleep that minute, how much sleep I’d get before the alarm goes off (we all do it), or getting up and making use of that time?

Morning people, I’m sure you can get up earlier to write before work. Afternoon people can take a later lunch break (if possible) and use their time productively towards their writing. Nighttime people – well, it’s a little harder, but it sure beats lying and staring at the ceiling and wondering what on God’s earth prompted someone to install a bright orange security light outside our bedroom.

I can’t really put this into practice until my next sleepless night.

However, I’m running a 10K and 5K on Sunday (The British 10K in the morning, and the Color Run UK in the afternoon) and I just received an email wishing me luck for the 10K and it states “Remember that 2 nights before the race is the most important night of sleep for peak performance.” So, no matter what, I need to TRY and sleep…

Let’s Create a Writing Habit

Tried and tested writers will be aware of the genius little site called 750 Words. If you haven’t heard of it, the idea behind it is in the name. You create an account purely to write 750 words a day. You don’t have to spend time writing a snappy description of your hobbies and interests. You don’t have to update your status or describe your current emotion at that moment.

It just asks that you take time from your day to write 750 words. About what? Well, anything you like. They’re your 750 words after all! It’s an exercise in training your brain and yourself to sit down and write something every day. It doesn’t need to make sense, it doesn’t need to link together or match up to the day before. You don’t have to finish what you’re writing about and you never have to read it again. But you are training yourself. After all, much like anything else, the brain is a muscle and if you want to create a habit within yourself, you need to train until it becomes exactly that – a habit. When you’re at a point when not doing something feels like you’re missing something from your day, you know you’ve formed a habit.

And you don’t even have to write all 750 words in one go. If you can type at 100 words a minute, you only need 8 minutes of your day to write (assuming you can keep going without any interruptions or pause for thought), but even if you’re a slower typer and find you haven’t got a lot of free time, you can do it in bits and pieces and just get used to using that free time to jot down ideas and thoughts.

If you write so many days in a row, or at certain times of the day, or at a particular speed, you can earn badges. (Badges!) Who doesn’t want a Turquoise Horse badge? (There’s even a badge for NaNoWriMo! You just write 50,000 words in one month.) You can even join in the One Month Challenge – where you endeavour to write 750 words a day for a month.

AND! There’s STATS! (I definitely heard a collective ‘ooooh’ then.) Fellow Internet nerds will love stats. Here’s a hopefully working link to the states page for my first 750 word day.

http://750words.com/entries/share/2882376

(I was blathering in third person about Britain’s poor excuse for a summer and how we like to make the most of it when we can.)

You can review what your brain thinks about – where your first port of call is. Do you like writing about happy or sad topics? People, yourself, the world around you? What about location? Food seems to be a major topic in my ramblings I’m learning so far. You can also see how often you pause. My pauses are a little off as I’ve been doing 750 words in work and I sadly do have to answer the phone on occasion and can’t quite write whilst discussing flights.

Just picking a random topic and writing because if you don’t do it that day you don’t get a little green ‘X’ in a box is an amazingly creative way to open up your mind. I’ve not really had any ideas for stories from it yet (but I’ve only been doing it four days) as I’m mostly using it to just cleanse our my fairly cluttered brain. I’ve come up with some blog ideas, though. I’ll mark them as 750 word creations (edited from the original).

You don’t have to tag or label or describe your work. It’s private, it’s open-ended; it’s yours. Go and try it.

The Power, or Lack Of.

Last night we had a power cut.

I was quite surprised. Power cuts aren’t all that common. I can’t remember the last time I experienced a power cut. In an odd way, I’ve always liked power cuts. Especially when I was younger. It meant we got takeaway food or something different as we only had a gas hob (my first ever stir fry was eaten during a power cut!) and it meant I could read by candle light as there wasn’t much else to do. And I loved to read. (Still do.) If it was winter, the lack of power meant being able to huddle up in warm clothes and blankets and it just felt exciting.

That feeling has never really left me. I still get a little excited when there’s a power cut. I admit, my first thought was “what am I meant to do in the dark?” but I have candles here, so I lit them. However, these days I have a netbook with an 8-10 hour battery life that was fully charged last night so as much as I could sit here and read, I’m chosing to sit here and write instead.

There’s something almost romantic about a power cut at night, I find. It’s dark and cosy and there’s flickering candles instead of electric lights. Everything seems softer and somehow warmer (despite the heating being off). In the modern age, I feel it also sparks creativity and even community. Without power, you can’t cook in the electric oven whilst watching TV. You either work out how to cook something (I am shortly going to be making hot chocolate on our gas stove), or you go out. If you go out, you may run into your neighbours in the local pub who have also gone to escape the lack of power and end up having a pleasant social night out that was entirely unplanned but thoroughly enjoyed.

And if you do stay in, then as I did when I was younger, you have the perfect excuse to catch up on that book you’ve been neglecting (as I typed that my thought instantly fled to House of Leaves which I’d been avoiding finishing for over a year as it freaked me out – obviously a power cut is the best time to finish such a story!), or you can write a letter, or write a story, or play board games if you don’t live alone. Be creative! If this was November, I’d’ve been delving into making use of the non-Internet time. However, as it’s not, I felt more like I could do little fun things such as reading a horror story by candlelight. Why not? After all, we often neglect such odd little pleasures, so when the opportunity comes to embrace them, embrace them we should! Some people may choose to sleep in the dark, I chosing to lie on the floor with my dressing gown over me, a cup of steaming hot chocolate at my side, a candle in front, and a book which prevented me from sleeping the last time I read it excessively. I know everyone’s different, but my choice sounds a lot more fun than sleeping. Unexpected night can be creepy. So, I am going to be creeped!

Enjoy your weekend, folks!

The Sweet Dreams of Others

My boyfriend has a tendency to talk in his sleep, or “wake up” and have a conversation before going back to sleep. In the middle of the night if he wakes me up, this can be a weird and confusing experience, but if I’m awake and he’s asleep, it can be highly entertaining. I hadn’t thought about it before, but there are some golden story ideas or starting lines in what he says.

For example, a few weeks ago we had a conversation at four in the morning about downloading being like the last day of school and having to empty your locker. He never did manage to explain what he meant but he was certain at the time that it made sense. Prior to that he told me that someone was a lionface. I’m not sure if he meant a person with a face with lion-like qualities or a person with an actual lion face. Intriguing either way. Last week he fell asleep in the evening so I was writing when I disturbed him and he ‘woke up’ and this was our conversation. (I am geniusly named ‘S’ in this conversation):

D: “Where’s your purple jumper?”

S: “I don’t have a purple jumper.”

D: “Your purple trainer, did you take it off?”

S: “I wasn’t…”

D: “What? What? What are you saying?”

S: “I’m answering your question.”

D: “Did you open the package at work? Did I?

S: “Yeah, you did.”

D: “Did I? Did I open all of them?”

S: “Yes.”

D: “Oh. I need to buy a museum.”

I was amused for a good fifteen minutes about the last line. There’s a whole fountain of potential little stories buried in that one sleepy conversation. I wrote a short story last week which was a morbid, very pointless tale of someone being chased through corridors by hounds (I haven’t written short stories in years so I’m VERY much out of practice) but tonight’s effort is definitely going to begin with “I need to buy a museum.” Not sure where to go with it, but it’s a great opening line! I’m sure it will lead me somewhere.

It was this conversation which prompted me to write it down and keep it for future use, and make notes of other odd things he says. He’s always nagging at me to be included in my writing so here we go!

I’m not one to listen to people’s conversations on the tube or the bus or wherever. When I’m out and about, I enjoy being in my own world and walk around with music in my ears. But if you’re the type of person who enjoys listening to those snippets of conversation around you, it’s a goldmine of potential story lines, character profiles or even just awesome one lines to drop into your writing to spice up the story! I know some writers will write down conversations they overhear into notebooks and store them for future use. As I’m often out without a bag or a coat with nice big pockets, I don’t always have a notebook on me so it’s rare for me to do this, but it’s a definite worthwhile idea, don’t you think? I’m already considering just going and sitting in Hyde Park in the summer and eavesdropping whilst lazing in the sun (assuming we get sun… ahem, weather?)

I guess where I’m going with this is – you never know what gems of inspiration you may pick up on without even realising. The world is full of amazing things. Use them.

(For anyone interested, I deciphered his cryptic and random sleepy conversation. No idea where the purple jumper and trainer came from, but the packages were referring to him needing to open the postal visa applications in work, and the next morning on the way to work he announced he was able to buy a museum for his Jurassic Park game on his phone. Minds are strange and wonderful things.)

Description is the Killer

Last night I attended a murder mystery dinner party. This is one of those events where everyone is assigned a character, and you’re expected to arrive dressed as your character. The party takes place around several courses of food and the host dictates how much of the story is revealed. Each person knows more about their character than those around them and the idea is to work out who killed the dead person. It’s kinda like a live version of Cluedo (or Clue, as I believe it’s called in some parts of the world).

I’ve never been to one before and it was very interesting from several viewpoints. But what also struck me, as a writer, was how people interpreted the descriptions we were given of our own characters. Clearly, without spending more money than a one night dinner party is worth, outfits are going to be thrown together from whatever each person already owns. But, from a brief description that we’re all given, everybody will naturally have an instant image in their head of how they want to look.

For example, my character ‘Kitty Killer’ was provided with the following:
“You’re a celebrated journalist and biographer, but you’re also so glamorous that you’re often more famous than the people you’re writing about.
Costume Suggestion: Head-to-toe in black with a slash of scarlett lipstick and either a wig in foxy blond or jet black.”

I instanty saw myself in tight black jeans with heals and a black shirt. Mainly because I own all of this. I’m a natural blonde and whilst I could easily just straighten my hair, which I do most days anyway, I decided to make the effort and go and buy a black wig. Of course, easier said than done. In my head, my character has straight black shoulder length hair, with a fringe. My hair is half way down my back, which meant I’d need a longer wig than my mental image suggested. The wig I bought was a reaches-to-your-bum Halloween “witches” wig for £8, and was the tattiest thing I could’ve found. (They were clearly going for very badly failed Morticia Adams look.) It didn’t fit my mental image and thus I was unhappy about wearing it. (I took it off after about 15 minutes.)

When we write a story, we are painting mental images of our characters in our readers minds. Without sitting down and giving a full blow by blow description of their skin, face, hair, and wardrobe choices, you’re not going to provide each individual reader with the exact same image. No matter how hard you try, your mental image of your own character is unlikely to reflect that of the image in your readers’ minds. And if you do try hard enough, you’re likely to drive people away from your story as they struggle to match your way of thinking.

I believe there is such as thing as ‘over-description’. It’s like you’re forcing your readers to see things the way you see them, to think the way you think. You should be carefully guiding them, giving them room to make their own judgments, allowing them a little freedom to move about in your novel world and get to know it in their own way. And I think that’s a good thing. It allows everybody who comes into contact with the character to relate to them and to interpret them in their own way. It helps give them a link to the story, helps them to interact with the characters, and gives them a doorway to feeling what the characters feel and that’s what makes a story Good. If you think of your favourite story, it’s always one you’ve added your own personal touch to – whether it’s the way you see a character or the way you pronounce their name – it makes it special.

We’ve all seen the movie version of a book we like and instantly wrinkle our noses and go “well that’s not how he/she looked in the book!” but how would you know? After all, if everyone interprets a description differently, maybe they did look like the book to somebody. (Although specified eye colour or hair colour is very hard to mis-interpret.)

Like everything else in writing, there’s is a balance with description. Too little, and your reader may get lost, too much and they my feel dragged by the wrist. I feel lucky that I enjoy description and I feel that I handle it quite well. Dialogue, however, it’s an entirely different kettle of fish…

(And for anyone interested, I wasn’t the killer.)

Dried Mango, Writing the Unknown, and a Plan

Firstly, Tesco dried mango is very nice. My (Edit by Boyfriend: handsome) boyfriend gets it as part of his effort to eat one piece of fruit every day (I know the theory is five pieces a day but you have to start somewhere). I steal every other piece. It makes a very nice train journey snack. Sadly he only gets mini one-person sized packets.

It’s now been over one week since I started writing again. I’ve written over 4,000 words on a new story. The story is just me getting back into the game – there’s no plan for it to be anything but a entry-way. It’s very calming writing something you know hasn’t got a real end goal. I don’t imagine I’ll edit it, I don’t imagine it will really see the light of day again. It’s soul purpose is to get me back into the swing of things and I like it. I have no real target or word-count, no idea of what I’m doing with the story or where it’s going to go, I’m just Writing. Those of you familiar with pantsing are probably now thinking that this is pantsing, and you’re right. However, even when I pants, I still usually have a plot outline in my head, and a word count target, and a few characters lined up. But with this story I began writing it solely based on the fact it was raining outside. The second sentence is “The rain smashed against the window, turning the glass into streams of water.” I named a character with the first name that came to mind. I was initially going to have her sat in her room, but that quickly changed into a hospital room as the music I was listened to at the time was meloncholy so I wanted a more suited setting. By the end of the first paragraph I had my MC’s girlfriend in a coma in the room. It was only three paragraphs later I decided it was from being hit by a car. My MC was reading Stephen King’s ‘IT’, a book I’m almost done reading myself. I had no ideas about the story until I was writing it.

It’s beautifully soothing to just sit back and enjoy writing without that flicker at the back of the mind that I’m meant to be aiming for something with the writing. I have no intent on editing this so it doesn’t matter what direction the story wanders off in. I’m now about to introduce an actual monster into the story – big beast type thing with claws, salvating jaws, glowing eyes, scales, the whole nine yards. Why? Well, why not. I need a “bad guy” and I’ve never really made up a monster of my own creation so I’m going to go and play with some nice big descriptive paragraphs. It’s a lot of fun.

I decided last Monday to draw up a plan for writing. Not a plan about what I’m writing, but a plan for just sitting down and writing. I decided I have to sit down and write for at least 20 minutes four nights a week. It doesn’t sound like much but I’m often tired when I get in from work and if I was forcing myself to write for an hour I worry it would feel like a chore, but 20 minutes is a nice time allowance. And if I’m enjoying myself, which I often am, I can just continue until I feel ready to stop. I have a weekly chart with tick-boxes on my wall. If I get four boxes ticked, then I get to colour the week in green. If I don’t tick four boxes, it goes red. (Scary, I know.) Blog posts count as writing as long as I do at least some work on my fiction as well.

Overall getting back into writing is going well. I’ve also taken up running. I’m feeling very motivated with my life. It’s a good feeling to have.

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