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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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Please Write Me This November

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I, as I imagine lots of others did, received an email on October 16h from from ‘[My] Novel’. It begin:

“Dear Burgeoning Novelist,

I’m writing to tell you I need you. That’s right, I’ve been swirling around in the breathtaking labyrinths of your unconscious mind for a while now, and I’m itching to leap into the world. The only way I can come out, though, is if you commit to writing me in November.”

I think I just got guilt tripped by my not yet formed novel.

As a seasoned pantser (that’s someone who writes “by the seat of their pants” rather than planning it out) I don’t really tend to think about my novel much before November. I have a working title, a one line plot idea, and the first name of a character (not even my main character – just a character) which I gained from answering the question “What is the first sentence of your novel?” on the unofficial NaNoWriMo Facebook group.

Okay, tell a lie… as I wrote that, I decided said character will die in the first two pages. So definitely not my main character.

Last week I woke up in the night and my brain switched to NaNo. Probably because from the bed I can see my thick folder of notes and the printed version of We All Fall Down sitting on my desk. (Now that IS guilt tripping me as I haven’t done any editing in two weeks.) In my sleepy state, it began ticking over ideas.

I’m creating a fictional town in England to base my novel in. I’ve done fictional worlds before but never a fictional town in the real world. I decided I’m going to do this properly. Usually I just dive in, write, and then have the horrific task of remapping my novel to make sense afterwards. We have a huge whiteboard which I plan on accommodating for November and I plan on drawing a map of my fictional town as I go along.

When I woke up, I decided my town was going to be centered around a cemetery. I then decided it would be circular, and then my brain threw out that the plan of the town should be related to the Wiccan Wheel of the Year. I feel back asleep at this point.

I’m not even sure I could incorporate the Wheel of the Year into a town map, and if I could, it would take a LOT of planning and I don’t think I could link it to my plot idea. However, I did really like the idea of having the layout of the town related to my idea, rather than just a randomly built town.

(I was also impressed that I remember my thoughts when I woke up the next morning.)

Right now, it’s hard not to think about your upcoming novel – pantser or not. It’s hard not to feel it clinging to the edges of your consciousness, peering over the edge with wide eyes, giving you a nervous little smile. It’s waiting for your permission to climb up and run about in your mind. Come November 1st, you’ll be pulling that little novel up to your level and you’ll be running with it. Hell, you’ll be taking it sledging and rolling in the snow with it. This is your new best friend.

So, yes, please write your novel. It will be sad and lonely without you. Do this whether you know your only poor unsuspecting character will die soon or not. Listen to your mind when it gives you ideas, and listen to your novel when it calls to you on November 1st.

Eight days and counting.

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.)

The Bet – Day Four: Taking a Break

Today is a day off from The Bet. This is purely because yesterday was Boyfriend’s birthday and I allowed him to watch TV. When he asked if he could, I didn’t want to waste a tube journey of reading with only the London Evening Standard for company, so I chose to have today as my day off instead. Man, I forgot how much easier tube journeys are when you have a book for company. Whole stops went by and I didn’t even notice people getting on and off, or the doors opening, or the fact that we were even moving along the tracks. A 45 minute journey suddenly felt like 10 minutes, but I managed to get through 100 pages of Zoe Marriott’s ‘The Night Itself’! I recommend it if you’re into Young Adult books. It involves a 500 year old Katana, and a 15 year old girl defending modern day London from a Big Bad. Also the cover is very pretty:

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The girl in the bookstore even commented on it and said she wanted to read it.

However, until today, The Bet has gone well. I discovered a new interest in playing games on my phone, which considering I have the world’s crappiest smartphone, is impressive. I can’t have more than one game installed at once though. It drains my memory. And I’ve discovered that if you stand up against one of the doors at either end of a tube carriage (the doors that connect to the next carriage along), you get a nice blast of cold air on your hot neck every time the train leaves a station – perfect for long, sweaty, tube journeys.

The flat is also looking tidier, as getting in from work now means I haven’t really got much to do. If I go into the bedroom to watch TV, I’m liable to fall asleep and then I’ll waste the whole evening, which I don’t want. We’ve also been busy each night so far – Tuesday we went to the cinema (Monsters University is an amazing movie), and Wednesday went to Boyfriend’s folks place for a birthday meal. Tonight we’re having drinks after I’ve finished work, and tomorrow we’re heading to Brighton for the day! This means I haven’t really had a lot of time where I would be reading.

The true test comes on Sunday – Tuesday, when I’m off work with no real plans other than wanting to relax in the sun and read on the patio.

In a weird way, it’s almost cleansing to not be able to read and write whenever I want to. It means I have to find other ways to pass the time and I’m already working out ways for me to fill it. For example, I’ve owned a book on making origami jewellery for 18 months and haven’t done anything with it. This would be prime time to making a go of it. I may need to find a craft shop first to pick up a few bits, but even if not – I have the suitable paper ready.

Before, I felt I should be writing, and thus it became a chore. But right now, because I know I’m not allowed to, I’m feeling that when I win the bet (hehe), I’ll want to again. I feel I will have missed it because I’ve been banned from doing so. I’m also planning on fully printing my draft of We All Fall Down and editing it the old fashioned with – with a red pen! I have plans to look forward to, which is really nice.

In the meantime, I have another 250 pages of The Night Itself to read before midnight! Enjoy your weekend, folks!

The Bet – Day One: What I Would Do For £100

Boyfriend has this desire every so often to taken on random and often ridiculous bets with those around him. He’s a determined creature and enjoys proving the world that he’s particularly great at these random things. For example, last year he took on a bet with his best friend. The bet was that Boyfriend would be vegetarian for a month, and Friend would be vegan (Friend was already vegetarian). Seeing as Boyfriend didn’t eat vegetables at all prior to this month, it was an interesting and entertaining month for the rest of us, and a painful month for himself. They decided that whoever broke first had to have a tattoo of the other’s choice. As it happened, both completed the month and neither got a tattoo, seeing as they both won. Amusingly, Boyfriend was ill the first week or so of turning vegetarian and with a month being just long enough for his body to adjust, he was ill when he went back to eating meat again as well.

On Friday he announced he wanted to try a bet with myself. Not wanting to appear weak, I agreed. The bet? He has to give up all TV, and I have to give up reading and writing. The intricate terms are:

Boyfriend:

  • No TV. Of any description. (I said he could watch Arsenal matches but it’s off season.)
  • He’s allowed to watch movies.

Me:

  • No reading fiction at all.
  • No reading newspapers at all.
  • No reading websites outside of work.
  • No writing, apart from blog posts (and work emails) so I can document this.
  • I’m allowed to check Facebook.

He’s currently unemployed and so usually watches a lot of TV. I spend 3 hours a day commuting on the London Underground and will read and write in the evenings, often whilst he’s watching TV as I enjoy the background noise sometimes. We are both giving up something we spend a great deal of our free time embracing and will have to find other forms of entertainment. Ironically, if I can’t read I would watch TV. But as he can’t, I either have to kick him out of the living room or go into the bedroom myself to watch it.

He reckons I’ve got it easier but he doesn’t read fiction and therefore doesn’t grasp the sheer depth of this bet for me. I’m halfway through Justin Cronan’s ‘The Twelve’, and I have Zoe Marriott’s new book ‘The Night Itself’ waiting in a Foyles bag for me! I didn’t even mean to own any new books after the bet was made, but on Saturday we went into Foyles and I went browsing and saw two books I instantly wanted. One was The Night Itself, and the other was ‘Angel Fever’ by L.A. Weatherly – the third of a trilogy that I’ve been waiting for for a year! I couldn’t say ‘no’! I spent Saturday and Sunday evening, and most of yesterday, devouring Angel Fever before midnight struck (I succeeded), and I got a tweet from the author:

Tweet - Me

Tweet - Lee

(Amazing trilogy by the way! Highly recommended. And if you’re waiting for Angel Fever, I will just say two words – THE FEELS!!!)

Of course the big question is – what do we do if we lose? We pay the other £100. We’re withdrawing the money tonight and keep it in the flat so when one of us breaks – we can instantly pay up and flee to our vices.

There isn’t a time frame on this at the moment, although we’re debating adding one for our sanity. I’m heading home to visit my family on Wednesday 25th for five days and we’ve already decided we are putting the bet on pause during this time, as I will have a 2 hour train journey to contend with and a LOT of free time in my parents’ house, which I usually fill with re-reading books I’ve left behind. It was too much. And Boyfriend has a friend staying over for a couple of days whilst I’m away so it’d be super tough for him, too.

So, for the time being, I am not reading or writing. But I will be blogging about how I get on emotionally with this. It’s one thing to choose not to do something, or not feel like it, but another entirely to have that choice taken away from you.

Here’s to the next few days!

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!

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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