Tag Archives: writer

I Am A Very Bad Blogger

I can do little but apologise for all this tardiness. I have been highly neglectful, but I’ve been rather busy in other areas of life.

I have two more articles up now, and many more are pending. Check them out if you have time (one was an Easter What’s On and the other is about beauty tips) because we’re after as many views, Likes and Tweets as we can get!

In other news, I am putting together two new blogs. One is just an overall portfolio of my work, because a blog seems like the best way to show folks what I’m producing. The other… Well, the other you’ll find out about when I’m ready to start posting. I’ve got a couple of articles written for it, but I want a healthy backlog for those weeks when life just gets in the way. Suffice to say, I hope all of you enjoy reading it when it goes up.

Other than that, I’m also attending a new writing group. It’s not a group to write with so much as a group to share writing experiences, and so far it’s been a brilliant networking experience. It’s nice to have something advisory rather than something creative, too – I have enough on my plate at the moment without too many extra stories!

What else has happened? I’m starting to write something for the Harry Bowler writing competition. It’s for first time writers in the UK, and the objective is to send them the first chapter of a novel. Doesn’t matter what the novel’s about. There’s only one condition: it has to be set in a specific city. Any city, I assume, as long as it actually exists in the real world. Naturally my first choice is Sheffield. I lived there for three years, after all, and know it fairly well. The only question is, what will the plot be?

It means putting my other novel on the back burner for a time, but I reckon it’s worth it for the chance of being published.

Speaking of the back burner, I’ve also put my current novel down in favour of writing a review for work. I won’t tell you what I’m reviewing yet, but I’ll let you know when it’s on the website. The book I’ve been reading, though, is another of my dusty paperbacks: Out by Natsuo Kirino. It’s a pretty sweet read so far, but we’ll see how it pans out when I get half a chance to read the rest of it.

Wow, I had more to say than I thought! Better get a move on, though: this article it’s going to write itself!

 

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Happy Birthday, Blog!

Wow!  This blog is now officially one year old.

I shall launch balloons, eat birthday cake on its behalf and consider how utterly terrifying that thought is.  Time passes much too quickly these days.  I guess now would be a good time to reflect on what progress has been made since those early days…

LIFE LESSONS

 JUST WRITE

It may well be hard to appreciate this if you aren’t me, but it was invaluable for me to get out of a certain way of thinking and working.  I used to be obsessed with perfection and, as a result, was never able to finish anything.  I used to look over a story I’d had in mind for several years, unable to move forward because I’d planned too much and for too long.  Since then, I’ve changed my ways.  I’ve moved on to a fresh new project and write in a relaxed, carefree way, just writing scenes to have a draft of them finished rather than scrapping anything which isn’t solid gold.  This has made writing far more fun – and far more productive.

READ MORE

It helps to improve your writing style.

THIS IS IT

This is the route I want to take in life.  No matter what I need to do to get by financially, I never want to stop writing and I ultimately want to be published.  Preferably a lot, and preferably in exchange for money.

I AM GOOD AT THIS

I’m not going to sit here and brag, but equally I’m not going to wring my hands and shrug off my abilities as average anymore.  I’m confident now: I know I am good at this.  Popular opinion, some of it professional, has confirmed that I have talent.  I know I have the potential to make this work and if I keep my ears and eyes open for opportunities, as well as keep my mind open to criticism, I will be published.  It’s just a matter of time, patience and commitment.

WHERE AM I NOW?

My novel is 20,000 words of first draft, which I started in December.  Most of those words actually constitute the bare bones of scenes, which won’t be too hard to fill out, and I’ve worked out most of the plot points.

I have several completed short stories, one of which won a little competition, and two other novels on the backburner.  And I’m writing for a magazine, building my article portfolio, and therefore hopefully about to have my name in print one way or another.

Basically, compared with where I was in my ambitions a year ago, an administrator without a single completed piece to her name, I’ve actually made quite a bit of progress.

SO WHAT NOW?

Looking back, the past year has involved an awful lot of stopping and starting – my switch to a different novel, for a start off.  As such, even though I’m proud of my progress, I need to pick up the pace this year.

GOALS THIS YEAR

I’d like to start entering some short story competitions, especially ones which provide feedback on entries.

Secondly, I’d like to set up a new blog with an emphasis on entertainment.  I’d like to start showcasing some of my work on the web.Third, I want to get published, both in fiction and non-fiction if possible.

Finally, I still want to finish my novel by the end of this year and start sending it off to publishers.

It’s a long slug to get where I’d like to be, but I’m up for the challenge.  Watch this space.


The Verdict…

Time to find out how well I did reaching my target.

And now to explain why I have to work this out.  Well, you see, as soon as I went away for the weekend, I realised I would be writing the fruits of this challenge on Evernote and that Evernote doesn’t have a word count function.

Immediately upon discovering this, however, I realised it was actually quite a blessing.  It made me paranoid that I might overestimate how much I was writing, and therefore not hit my 5,000 word target because I was prematurely resting on my laurels.  The result of this was a huge case of pre-emptive overcompensation to make sure I wouldn’t fall short.

So, what’s the verdict?

At this point, I’d like you to imagine a supercomputer making what the ’70s understood to be computer calculation noises.  For those who are struggling, it sounds like the noise wind chimes would make if they bleeped rather than chimed.  Wind bleeps, you might say.

Anyway, here it is!  Computer says…

It's... not actually over 9,000...

7773 words.  In eight days.

Wow.  I may not have reached 10,000, but I actually doubled my normal work output.  In fact, I achieved my 5,000 word target in just one weekend, look!  And, to be fair, you can only produce so much twaddle before you have to stop and organise the twaddle you already have.  Then you can work out where you are twaddle-deficient and fill in the gaps with adequate levels of additional twaddle.

So, now it’s time to put all this stuff in the folder and start thinking about what needs doing next.

And award myself the sapphire relic, of course.  Nice job, methinks.

Also, determined to read May Contain Nuts before March arrived, I blasted through several chapters last night and am proud to say I have completed it.  Another novel down!  Now to find a shiny new book to read…


Sleep in Heavenly Peace, Christmas Story

Good news!

I finished the Christmas Carol story! Somehow it totals over three thousand words, blurted out onto my iPad at various opportune moments and filled in where necessary two days before I took it to the group today. I’m sure I’ll pick up problems once I’ve given it a bit of space, but I’m actually very proud of what I’ve done.

I can hardly believe it was completed so sporadically over the course of this month. Most of the time I just glared at it fruitlessly. It feels like I only granted it my full undivided attention five or six times. Yet, in spite of all of this, it fits together cohesively. I love my characters, I love the way the plot unfolds and that all the things I wanted to include were included. A job well done. It even won the Christmas competition!

Having said that, though… I’m free. Free, I tells ya! Free to write other fiction, including my novel. The Christmas story was hanging over me so much I didn’t dare to so much as open the file. Time to get back to my main focus this year.

Watch this space.


One Month In; Two Books Down

Right.  I finished both Idoru and Miranda Hart’s first literary romp, Is It Just Me? this week. This may sound like I am a powerhouse of reading, but the truth is that I burned through at least half of Miranda’s book over a couple of days during the Christmas season.  It had been bought for me and I didn’t have Gibson’s to hand to finish first before starting it.  That’s right, I have been polyamorous with my books.  Polyliterate, if you will.

It was a good book, but has been something of a bad influence.  There are now just too many new ways to wreak havoc now.  I am quite competent at being insane by myself without help, ideas, a role model or instructions to go about being insane in public.  Soon the mental hospitals of the world will be filled with Mirandites, mistakenly picked up by people in white coats for galloping in art galleries and hiding in the stationery cupboard.

So!  What’s a girl to read next?  I’m a bit sci-fied out right now, if I’m honest.  I’m also somewhat serioused out after Miranda’s incredibly dark exploration of the psyche.  Looking at my predominantly sci-fi and/or serious collection, I have decided to opt for May Contain Nuts by John O’Farrell.  It’s a funny look at extremely over the top middle class parenting, and it’s already made me giggle to myself one chapter in.  Teach me the ways of comedic timing, John!

Meanwhile, next week I am starting my internship and going to a meeting of journalists for a local paper.  This makes May Contain Nuts my very first commuting book.  Oh yes.  How professional of me.  Just have to hammer out that accursed Christmas story before my articles take up all of my attention.

Good news, though.  I have concocted the characters on the other side of the door to my carol singers…


Idoru

The snow has arrived with the force of a billlion snowflakes.  Because it is a billion snowflakes.  The implications of this for me are a morning shovelling snow and the writing group being postponed for another week at the least.  Which is really bloody convenient because, quite honestly, I am way behind in my assignments!

I blame William Gibson, in part, but in a loving way.  I’ve been reading his novel Idoru as part of my resolution to read a book a month.  I almost finished it twice in the past three years or so before biting the bullet this time.  It’s a good book, but it just seems to catch me at points in my life when it is destined to not be finished.

Gibson writes sci-fi I assume is classified as soft but refuse to verify online at this point for fear of spoilers.  It is stunning in that the future he paints is something feasible and well-conceived; it’s modest enough in its projections that it doesn’t age itself but makes big enough leaps to be an interesting read.  In fact, it didn’t dawn on me it had been written in the late nineties until I suddenly noticed they were all jacking in with wires rather than without them.

There’s a Ghost in the Shell edge to it, for sure, but it doesn’t slap you around the head with cyborgs – normally the first calling card of the dated sci-fi.  .  He also paints a future which is neither dystopian nor utopian, which is immensely refreshing.  The world he shows us just is, the same way the present day world is, with its good points and its bad points.  Though I’ll admit, the good points are very good.  He makes me wish I owned a Sandbenders computer like Chia’s, or could see nodal points in a sea of internet data like Laney.

I’m most impressed with the representation of Japan.  Gibson captures the feel of the place incredibly well: the manic Japan of bright colours and cutesy things and the Japan of feverish overwork and obsession with technology; the orderliness and reservation of its traditional culture versus its capital, the insomniac metropolis.  Even the obliqueness, almost opaqueness, of its bureaucratic circles comes through.  He shows Tokyo being rebuilt with nanobots after an earthquake, which sounds quintessentially Japanese.  It’s truly impressive to properly capture a foreign culture, anyway, but to predict its future in a way which makes someone who knows a lot about Japan, like me, go, “Yeah, probably.”  That’s in a whole other class.

His style is very distinctive, too.  Sentence fragments standing alone.  Whenever he describes any person or small action, it makes you feel that you are his character, observing details as they are happening in a split-second communication between the optic nerve and the brain.  There’s something almost passive about it which makes it feel more real.

His characters are also first class.  Chia, a fourteen-year-old fan of a band, is delightfully competent, thoughtful and not obnoxious in the slightest, and yet Gibson doesn’t forget she is a teenager at any point in his portrayal of her.  Maryalice is completely awesome, the flighty, slightly crazy southern belle of whom we just don’t get to see enough.  Not to mention Kathy, the orchestrator of celebrity at TV network Slitscan, who believes avidly in a natural order of fame and its decline.

I knew Gibson was a legendary sci-fi writer, but reading his stuff really raises my ambitions.  I want to achieve what he does in his work and take what I can from his very distinctive and gritty style.  My only problem right now is that his very distinctive and gritty style is all that’s in my typing fingers when I’m trying to write a comedy!

With that, I shall leave you.  But only with my favourite quote from Kathy Torrence:

“[Slitscan’s audience] is best visualized as a vicious, lazy, profoundly ignorant, perpetually hungry organism craving the warm god-flesh of the anointed. Personally I like to imagine something the size of a baby hippo, the color of a week-old boiled potato, that lives by itself, in the dark, in a double-wide on the outskirts of Topeka. It’s covered with eyes and it sweats constantly. The sweat runs into those eyes and makes them sting. It has no mouth, Laney, no genitals, and can only express its mute extremes of murderous rage and infantile desire by changing the channels on a universal remote. Or by voting in presidential elections.”


Where to, Guv’ner?

Every once in a while, one sits at one’s desk and one wonders where one’s characters are wandering off to next.

Try saying that after a couple of whiskies.

Having made a New Year’s resolution to finish my book, it occurred to me on Monday that I was one week into said New Year and had not so much as glanced at it.  Then I realised in a cold sweat that, after fifty-one more weeks of similar progress, I’ll have failed my challenge.  Thus, I set to work, addressing the snag I knew was going to catch me one day.  For the sake of simplicity and larks, we shall call this problem, “Where to, Guv’ner?”

I think the journey aspect of any adventure is the hardest part to write.  If you’re anything like me, you can write a beginning, you have some vague but flexible ideas about the end game and you know a couple of pivotal points along the way.  It’s making the in-between bits a) connect these events together, b) lead to new plot points and characters and c) interesting.

Alas, I knew the time had come: I was going to have to get to grips with the landscape – the actual physical journey my characters are making.  Time to forge a map.  However, I was so stumped as to what I wanted this world to look like that I began to seriously doubt a paper map was going to be the way forward.

To this end, I started using a free app I shall recommend to you now.  It is called Idea Sketch.  It’s nothing groundbreaking: a large canvas and some bubbles of various colours, shapes and text sizes into which one may enter a title and description.  If you’re feeling truly sprightly and innovative, you might perhaps attempt to connect these bubbles together with arrows – as if they are related.

Granted, this practice is a bit fiddly.  Not only did I find myself unable to delete said arrows; I found myself inadvertently creating extra arrows in my attempts to do so.  Perhaps the arrows element would better serve a person building a regular mind map, where the precise connections between concepts aren’t likely to randomly move about.  However, for me, trying to squeeze in extra place names in a sort of linear geographical affair, it went a bit pear-shaped.

I decided to resolve this issue by simply not joining the bubbles, keeping them separate but close enough together to remember my routes.  This worked out far better.  I suggest you learn from my mistakes, and do this right from the off, rather than assume you are cleverer than me and can harness the arrows’ awesome power.  I make this suggestion out of love: when I tried to abort the arrows fiasco, I discovered that deleting one bubble deletes every other bubble joined to it, as if they are sharing organs or have made some kind of suicide pact.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: it sounds like trouble.  Why not just use Word or PowerPoint?  Well, to use Word or PowerPoint, I’d have to have to be sat at a laptop, which sort of stunts the creativity in the ideas stage.  On the iPad I can lounge about, looking at my map thoughtfully over several hours, whilst handily continuing with my life at the same time.  Multitasking.

Another advantage is that the iPad makes for more efficient zooming.  Plus the larger canvas means you don’t have to wrestle with page sizes to keep all your bubbles together.

Also, Word and PowerPoint’s shape functions, whilst eventually able to get the job done, do tend to fall down at key moments for no readily apparent reason.  Considering the money and research behind them, I do find any set diagram – though good in principle – simply can’t cope if I delete a box or try to move things about a bit.  It’s as if it was placed in charge of a psychotically needy relative as a child and now breaks down screaming, “What do you want from me?!” if you ask to borrow its pencil sharpener.

Also, when things go wrong on the iPad, I either blame myself for having butter fingers or forgive Idea Sketch its sins, because it’s just a little tiny baby free app and, coochy-coochy-coo, aren’t you cute with your limited capabilities and inexperienced developers?

By contrast, Word and Powerpoint… upset me.  Quite frankly, the idea of a mainstream word processor, on its umpteenth version, having a panic attack when I try to place a text box a few pixels to the right, fills my tantrum meter so fast you’d think I was a toddler, in an itchy sweater with too-long sleeves, dropping an ice cream cone in one hand and holding a complicated big kid toy I can’t work in the other.  With a tummy ache.

What was I talking about?  Oh, yes, my map app.  (Sorry.  Didn’t mean to rhyme quite that hard.)

Idea Sketch has its flaws, but, provided you avoid the arrows and make good use of the undo button, it can be quite a helpful tool for plotting your characters’ journeys.  Good if you don’t want to spend hours refining a drawn map, or buying new computers because Microsoft Office’s I’m-sure-very-attractive-if-it-found-the-right-person traits have rendered you a serial hardware defenestrator.

In my case, it was actually very helpful.  I’m much further along in my characters’ journey and am getting a feel for my setting.  Now I just have to keep writing and work out what comes next.