A Writing Day

Today has been a writing day.

I felt quite overwhelmed this morning about how much I have to do so today was going to be a day of getting stuff done. And because a lot of what needed doing was writing it was writing day.  I was going to go and write in a coffee shop for a while but it was raining this morning when I was going to leave so I thought I’d go after lunch.  Only I never actually got out of the house.  To make myself feel better I’ll blame that on the last lingering remnants of my cold.  It’s not really but we’ll pretend it is, ok?

I haven’t been able to write any fiction but I’ve written (or researched or chased for information or whatever I needed) several small things off the list and I feel better.  The to do list isn’t looking as great as I would like because I’m waiting for a few people to get back to me before things can be ticked off but it’s improved.

And I had a very interesting conversation with someone for an article I’ve since written.  I enjoyed it’s tough to get notes down while talking to someone on the phone.  Especially when you can relate to a lot of what the other person is saying but have to bite your tongue from sharing your own experiences and thoughts on the matter. As a writer it’s not about me, must remember that!

I really do need to start making fiction writing a priority though and not the treat at the end of the writing day when everything else is done.

Back to Hogwarts #PotterBinge

The Estella Society are currently hosting #PotterBinge – a Harry Potter readalong between November 1st and 31st January. And I signed up but hadn’t got started rereading yet.  I was definitely going to but frankly I’ve not been reading lately.  I love the Harry Potter books but having reread Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone a few years ago I didn’t enjoy it as much.  I don’t know how many times I’ve read them but it’s a lot.

I could write a post of Harry Potter memories and at some point maybe I will. But that’s not what I wanted to write about today.

I’ve been wanting the audiobooks of Harry Potter for ages – I had the one of Order of the Phoenix when I was at uni but I never got through it all despite trying several times, some of the discs went missing and at least one got damaged.  It wasn’t available on Audible and even the digital downloads (which is what I’d want) were extortionate on Pottermore/Amazon (over £180 for all seven books).  Then  I saw a tweet on Friday I think that the books are now available on Audible for 1 credit each. And I had two credits so now I have the first two books on audiobook.

I’ve been listening to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone yesterday and today.  It’s playing as I write this.

I’m enjoying it – Stephen Fry is the perfect narrator for these.  My perspective as an adult is different to what it was the first time I read them as a late teen.  I’m not far into the book but I think this is the first time the actions of The Dursleys around the letter make me think of anxiety and trying to do their best for Harry in their own possibly misguided way.  I’d like to read more about that in fanfic.

I don’t know if part of the difference is just being older or if the fact it’s the audiobook (unabridged, I only get unabridged audiobooks). I’m a fast reader and audiobooks definitely take substantially longer than reading even though I tend to listen at 1.5x but it seems like I notice more of the details, the colour of books when I listen than when I read.  So some of the nuaunces of the book may be more obvious.

As a writer I love audiobooks too. Hearing the dialogue makes it clearer to me how it works.  I sometimes feel like dialogue is lacking in my writing and when I listen to a book I tend (if it’s the right book and I think Harry Potter is so far) to feel inspired and as though I can do better with it. Tips on how to show not tell (which I can really struggle with) have often come from audiobooks too. They say you can’t be a good writer unless you read a lot and read widely. But over the last few years I’ve begun to think you need to listen to audiobooks to be a good writer too.

A is for…

The letter A in yellow superimposed over the A to Z blogging challenge logo
The letter A in yellow superimposed over the A to Z blogging challenge logo

A is for Author

I have always wanted to be a writer and written stories. And I’ve blogged for nearly 15 years, since before it was called blogging in fact.

I remember as a child around the age of 11 going to the shop with my Dad while on holiday in Puerto Pollensa, Majorca to be a notebook so I could write a story I had an idea for. That was a Star Trek: The Next Generation fanfic but it was years before I’d even heard of the term.  My next big story was around age 16 and that was a fanfic for ST:TNG too but I still hadn’t heard the term.  I have a love for notebooks and pens and have hundreds of the things but find typing so much easier than writing by hand (due to my disability).  I rarely use them but I still can’t resist the urge to buy them.

Writing weekly short story writing sessions one year at primary school – some of which I got high praise for and good marks for being a good writer. And others I didn’t because I had my own ideas and I’d take the prompt and squash it into the smallest ball and then write my own story that mentioned what the teacher had asked for in passing but mostly ignored it.  I struggle with that in many ways now too.  I have a novel idea and I love it and I’m working on it.  But I keep getting hit by new ideas for different novels or fanfics or for things to add to the novel I’m working on now  I’m a procrastinator that’s my problem.

I lie in bed and think through entire plots as I fall asleep.  I wake up from a dream and hope I remember it because it would make an interesting plot point.. People tell me interesting anecdotes and I think “how would my character have dealt with that?” and I linger in the shower as I lose track of time wondering if scene A should be moved so it comes after scene B.

In short, I’m obssessed.

I dream of one day being a published author.  One of the things I’ve been wondering about is at what point do I stop telling people “I’m a writer” and start telling people “I’m an author”.  I’m not sure but whenever that is,  It’s a long way away and novel writing is tough but I hope I’ll get there before too long.

A Writer In A Wheelchair

A Weekend in London

I went to London for the weekend and I had a busy but brilliant time.

Friday I met up with a good friend of mine who moved to London a couple of years ago.  We went over to the Tower of London to see the poppies.  I wanted to see them again and she hadn’t seen them.  It was strange because in so many places there were more than there were when Mum and I went in September but they were very definitely taking them down and there were gazebos and boxes and people in places doing that.  It was also completely and utterly rammed with people looking at them.  Nice to see them again but definitely a shame that they literally put the last ones down and started pulling them down the next day.

We mooched around a bit as well and went to a couple of other places but mostly it was just a lot of fun and to get he chance to see her and catch up properly because every other time I’ve seen her in the last six or so months it’s been in a big group and not a lot of time to really chat just us.

Saturday was the real reason why I went to London.  I went to a Creative Writing Masterclass put on by Books and the City (a part of Simon and Schuster).  And I was very very very nervous before I got there but I’m extremely glad that I went.

I had a blast, all of the talks were useful (plus the panelists were good at presenting which really helps) and I got a ton of freebies – I think I counted 12 books when I got back to my hotel.  Plus, we had Prosecco to wind the day down.

I loved hearing Milly Johnson talk about writing and her path to where she is now.  It was encouraging to hear that all the struggling and difficulties of writing and the publishing process are worth it.  She was funny and engaging whilst being very honest and telling us what we needed to know.  I enjoyed speaking to her during the drinks afterwards too. Quite a few of the free books  I picked up are hers and she signed one for me.  It’s pretty fair to say I’ve going to be reading very little but her books over the next few weeks.  And if the books I’ve read by her previously are anything to go by it’s going to be very enjoyable.

Lizzy Kremer’s talk about the role of an agent was also eye opening as I didn’t realise they did quite so much.  As a part of her talk she mentioned a couple of books coming out next year that she worked with the authors of and I quickly scribbled down the titles because she’s clearly very passionate them and they sound incredible.  I’ve since seen that one of them is already on NetGalley so I’ve put in a request for a review copy.

The biggest things that came out of all the talks for me were

  • At some point during the writing process you’re going to hate your work and this is normal and happens to everyone. Keep going.
  • That the process is more involved than I had thought and people’s jobs involve more than I would have expected.
  • It’s important to have a team of people that are passionate about your writing during the publication process because it makes a huge difference.
  • Networking with other writers is key and social media (particularly Twitter) was mentioned several times as a big part by various people

I also had a one to one session with the editorial director about my writing.  I’d submitted it in advance and that was the bit that I was most nervous about.  I’m not sure why I was so nervous (now) because she was very friendly and easy to talk to.  Plus she was positive about my writing and the idea behind my novel.  And although I have a lot of work to do on my novel following the feedback the biggest negative thing she said (about my setting not working) was something I’d already been thinking myself and had mentioned to a couple of people.  So it crystallised my thinking if you will and made me think I need to have more confidence in myself and my writing.

I’m really glad I went and I enjoyed meeting all the other writers there.  I feel much more energised about writing now and am looking forward to getting back to my novel.

Chasing a dream

I’ve always wanted to write.  It’s been a dream of mine for a long time to have a book published.  It’s not one I’ve worked on very consistantly over the years but I love to write and I’ve dreamt of author moments.

I’m trying at the moment to use the daily writing mojo I built up doing the book a day prompts to make a big dent into the novel I’ve been planning to write all year.

I set a goal at the beginning of the year to have a complete draft by the end of the year and unless I get my act into gear that goal isn’t going to happen. I’ve written bits here and there.  And I’ve written the same couple of scenes more than once.  But I’ve not got anything of substance to show for it. So making that happen is my August goal.  Maybe not a finished draft but enough of something down on the page to see the bare bones and have something that could be said to be an attempt at a book.

In some ways it’s going well.  In others it’s not.  The biggest problem is that I keep reading back bits of what I’ve written and liking them.  The smaller bits.  The majority of what I’ve written has felt like pulling teeth when I do it and then when I look back I spot things I could change or that are wrong.

So I get worked up and convince myself that actually, I can’t write.  I’m never going to be able to write.  This is a stupid goal and all the time and money I’ve spent writing and on classes and books about writing has been wasted and just generally what’s the point?

Then somehow I manage to get it together and I write a tiny bit more.  And you know it’s no where near as many words I think I need to have written or should have written but it’s words and they’re ok in my opinion and I start to think maybe I can do this.

For a little while.

But then it’s lather, rinse, repeat.

Back to the stressed out I can’t do this.

Who knew chasing your dream could be so stressful?

Writing Tips from Andrea Murray

As well as answering some questions for me Andrea Murray, author of Omni, also sent me some writing tips. I’ve been finding my writing hard lately so I was hoping some writing tips might help.  I think they did but I also think I’m getting a bit obsessed with getting writing tips and I probably need to just spend less time reading about how to write and more time actually doing some damn writing.

But before we get to Andrea’s tips here is a quote about writing I literally just found and really liked:

“The secret of being a writer: not to expect others to value what you’ve done as you value it. Not to expect anyone else to perceive in it the emotions you have invested in it. Once this is understood, all will be well.”

— Joyce Carol Oates

Anyway. Here’s what Andrea recommends:

1.        Make time.

It’s so hard to find the time to write sometimes.  You have to create a schedule of sorts, a set time every day or a certain number of days per week to sit down and devote yourself to your writing.  I have two young children and a full-time teaching job.  Finding time is often a struggle, but I really try to maintain my writing/reading time, and that is harder than it seems.  Sometimes, I look around and see toys that need to be picked up, clothes in the hamper awaiting the wash, or a coffee cup that needs to be put in the dishwasher, but I have to put on my blinders and focus on storytelling.  You also have to be willing to sacrifice for it at times.  What do I sacrifice? Sleep!  My writing time is between 4:30 AM and 6:00 AM.

2.        Know your characters.

You MUST know everything possible about your characters.  You should be able to drop your character into any situation and know exactly how your character will react.  Talk to them (just don’t let anyone hear you doing that or they will begin giving you strange looks).  Listen to their responses.  See them.  Know what they look like even if you never introduce that into your story.  If you know your characters well enough, you will be able to create the best conflict.  I try to put my character into the situation I know he/she doesn’t want to be in.  That’s when I get my story.

3.        READ!

Good writers are good readers.  If you aren’t reading, how can you expect to write? Yes, it’s time consuming to spend time reading and reviewing other works, but you can’t write if you don’t experience other writers’ styles.  Reading expands your own writing and helps you know what’s out there in the world of novels.  You don’t want to fill a notch that’s already filled, but you won’t know if it’s your notch without reading.

4.        Know your audience.

I know teenagers.  I may not be the best writer in the world, but I know, without a doubt, what kids like and don’t like.  I have long since lost count of the number of students I have had over my seventeen years in education, but one thing I’ve learned is that teens don’t really change.  Styles change, language changes, but kids are overall the same.  They might have trouble explaining what they loved about a book, but they most definitely know what they hated about it.  From that, I deduced things they like.  Reluctant readers won’t read a long novel.  It might be the best book EVER, but if it looks like you could smash a small rodent with it, they won’t touch it.  Kids like short chapters.  It gives them a sense of accomplishment and a clear goal.  Most kids like a little grit.  They want a character with at least a touch of bad. It isn’t realistic to think kids don’t hear cursing and talk about mature subjects.  If they go to public school**, trust me they hear it.  Does that mean the book should be overflowing with sex and profanity? No, that is likely to turn them away.  It’s a balance—one I’m constantly striving to achieve.

5.         Editing is hard.

I am still working on this one.  It is so difficult to edit your writing.  That page you just sweated over is your baby, your pride and joy! Cutting one word feels like a wound.  You NEED that word, that sentence, that paragraph.  If you hadn’t, you wouldn’t have written it, right? Well, eliminating that one word might improve the entire piece, so it has to go.  Painful? Sure.  Necessary? Absolutely.

**to save anyone else having the blank confused moment I did reading this (caused mostly by how stupidly tired I was I think because usually it wouldn’t have thrown me) I’ll note here that Andrea’s in the US and what they call public school isn’t anything like what we call public school. Usually I tend to think our names for things make much more sense but in this case I must admit I think the US have the sense thing down here.

The End of NaNo

So it’s the end of November and Nanowrimo ends at midnight.

I’m a nano winner in that I’ve written over 50,000 words this month.

I’ve not written a book. I’ve not even written anything vaguely like a first draft of a book. Some of my friends are talking about submitting for publication pretty much straight away. They are either much better writers than I am or totally insane. Or both.

What I’ve written is a mess. It’s a variety of scenes from the idea I had. Some I planned and some I didn’t. Some work and some make me cringe just to think of them. I suspect when I look back some of the ones I thought worked probably won’t and some that made me cringe will turn out to be better than I remembered. I hope so anyway.

I’ve also come away with the feeling that the idea I had is actually for two stories rather than two arcs in the same book. And that very possibly I’m using the wrong perspective and the wrong main character. I wrote a bit using the new main character on Thursday and again yesterday and I like it a lot. It feels like better writing. But I think I’ll miss the person I thought was the main character. Which is why I’m thinking this is two stories not the one I thought it was.

More importantly being able to lose myself in my writing has helped me deal with a very difficult month with major wheelchair problems, several very sad happenings and lots of stress.

Taking part in NaNo has got me back into the habit of writing regularly once again. And it’s reawakened my love of writing. I needed that.

NaNo for me isn’t about writing a book, or finishing a book or anything like that it’s about writing and the fact it makes me do it. And tomorrow I get to go drink cocktails with a couple of very good friends (one I met through NaNo and one I got to know better through NaNo but knew before) and a bunch of new friends to celebrate that fact.

Random Bullet Points of Life

♥ I got my powerchair back yesterday and I took it out for a very long wander around this afternoon. I came back cold but with the cobwebs well and truly blown away and feeling happier.

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(An Instagram I took as proof I went out and because I thought it looked nice. Road, trees, sky, cars going past and the power station in the distance)

♥ I can’t remember if I posted here that I was going to take the creative writing class again. It was going to be a five week class with the same tutor I had before. The first one was last week but the rest have been cancelled due to low numbers. Which didn’t surprise me. It’s a shame but I’m not as bothered as I was because I wanted to take it to help me find my writing mojo again and I’d already located it.

♥ my GP just called me (at 7:20 PM). My iron levels were back to normal when tested but my stores were still low. I may need to keep taking iron on a very low dose long term however. I feel this is a perfect time to declare “sometimes it’s hard to be a woman…” (Who sang that?) retest in December.

♥ it’s probably over a week and a half since I finished a book.

♥ I actually finished a craft project! Well a couple of weeks ago but the recipient has it now so…

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(Pink crocheted baby blanket, crocheted in the round. Large bright pink stripes interspaced with a few narrower light pink ones)

♥ I have 26,437 words written for NaNo. They are mostly crap.

A Properly Poorly Powerchair

I’ve got a poorly powerchair. I’ve known for a fe weeks that it didn’t feel right but I couldn’t put together what was wrong with it.

Then mum and I went to Oxford to see The Mousetrap and on our way to the station afterwards (I had gone in early for drinks with a friend) she said the back of my chair struck her as wrong. When we got back to the station she had a properly look as we had time before the train and said she wasn’t sure. But I mentioned that I’d thought it felt off and had had a feeling it was something on the front right.

I’d been not saying anything to anyone because I wasn’t sure if I was right and anyway denial was a nice comfortable place to be and meant i didn’t have to do anything to sort it out. But she said I was right and that my front right wheel (my chair has six wheels) was coming on and off of the ground as I wheeled and actually I could see that in the reflection in a shop window.

So I emailed the guy who does my powerchair (at the moment I have two wheelchair technicians because my manual is NHS and they provide servicing for free. Consequently I see a lot more of the technician who deals with my manual). And I also mentioned that I definitely needed new tyres and suspected I was beginning to need new batteries. We spoke on the phone and he said he’d come out yesterday.

In the mean time I was using it as usual and trying not to worry about it. A few people had said to me since then it didn’t look right including a new staff member at Reading Station I’d never met before. I told him I knew and was working on it but in the mean time I preferred if we could pretend there wasn’t anything wrong. I’m not sure he got it but he tried to pat my shoulder in what I take to be sympathy. Let’s just say that I was whipping through the station quickly between trains and he was walking next to me and it wasn’t my shoulder he got…

The technician came mid morning yesterday and within about five minutes had spotted that it had a broken shock absorber, I asked if I could keep using it until they had the part and he paused at which point I added “bearing in mind I went all round Ascot in it on Saturday and round Oxford yesterday…”

Anyway, basically it’s not safe to use.

We chatted a bit more about the chair and he asked me if wanted the armpads replacing while he had if. I showed him a bit that I needed putting back after it had fallen off (the battery cover) twice in the middle of Oxford the day before and he went “are you trying to wreck it?” And well I had to admit that I wasn’t but it really does look that way.

Then after he asked me about book blogging having seen my email signature and I tried to explain, I’m not sure successfully, he left.

Taking my poor poorly powerchair with him.

And they’ve had some of their courtesy chairs stolen so they don’t have any available for me to borrow.

Several hours later he called me back. With what he described as “good news, bad news, and news”

When he got back to the workshop he found my chair has also got a cracked chassis and needs a whole new one. This, apparently, is not unheard of which I find very concerning. Especially as I’ve got a Quickie Salsa M and I’d always heard that Quickie and their parent company Sunrise Medical are one of the most popular/best brands out there.

This was the bad news, along with the fact that I’m not getting my chair back until next week at the earliest. The good news was it’s covered by the warranty (I’ve had the chair since Feb 2012). The news which was in between good and bad was the details how much my new tyres and batteries will cost. Let’s just say its £extortionate but cheap when you work out how long they last and how much taxis would cost (my dad is giving me a lift somewhere tonight. If I had t get a taxi it would be about £6 each way it’s not much more than a mile)

So I’m powerchair less at the moment which makes things interesting.

But it does mean my do NaNoWriMo in a low key way plan is out the window and I’m getting loads of writing done 🙂

Writing Poetry

Words flow from my fingers
Rhythm and rhyme are acknowledged as important yet ignored
Imagination and inspiration are the key
Thinking too much will throw it off
Inside I wonder if this will be any good
Never quite convinced that
Good will come from my words

Poetry plagues me
Overwhelmed with the need to write
Extremely difficult to find the motivation
Trying to do so more often
Really trying
Yet never quite doing