Monday, 17 December 2012

Holidays are coming, holidays are coming...

Today is Monday and I wish it was Thursday.  I know it has been drilled into us all since childhood that we shouldn't wish our time away but I'm finding it a little tricky right now to obey this rule.

It's the end of term this week.  On Thursday, at lunchtime, the students finish their lessons and run screaming into the glorious freedom of the Christmas holidays.  My problem lies in the fact that, up until this time, a large part of my job is to keep them quiet, focused and working.  Given that they have already converted into 'Christmas mode', I'm sure you can appreciate how difficult this is.

So I'm preparing myself for a difficult day tomorrow.  As we're all aware, I'm not a big fan of optimism so I will be bracing myself for the worst rather than hoping for the best and ending up disappointed.  How's that for a cheery sentiment?

But I want to think happy thoughts.  Happy thoughts like IT'S ALMOST CHRISTMAS!!!  And I don't feel so snuck-upon this week, having managed to get a little bit of wrapping done over the weekend (although not as much as I'd hoped).  Given that Christmas tends to turn me into a five-year-old, I'm staring at the pretty lights strung around my bedroom going 'oooooh' and covering myself in tinsel at every available opportunity.

Also in prime position in the happy thoughts category is the extra time I will have to write when I'm on Christmas holiday for two weeks.  I'm on Chapter 30, meaning (once I've finished it) the Christmas aim will be accomplished!  Hurrah!  I'm not fool enough to think that I won't have plenty of other shenanigans to occupy my time during the break but I should still have more time to write than I do during term-time.  And hopefully time to look for agents.  Time and courage for that one.

Right, back to Chapter 30.  There's a prophesised phone call, a house belonging to (relatively) friendly criminals and a generous smattering of witchcraft.  Sometimes my novel sounds really weird.

Monday, 10 December 2012

The Sneakiness of Christmas

The festive season seems to have snuck up on me a little this year.  Suddenly there are only two weekends before Christmas (with both Saturdays already booked up) and I haven't even got a tree up yet.  Presents are, thankfully, almost done in terms of buying but the wrapping process looks incredibly daunting and will probably wait until a couple of days before they're needed.  An unwise choice but one I will probably foolishly take regardless.

This sudden realisation that Christmas is coming at exactly the same time as it does every year has meant that I haven't done quite as much writing as I would have liked this week.  I'm currently working on Chapter 28, which isn't a terrible point to have reached but I would have liked to be done with it by now.

In a more positive spin on the being-on-chapter-28-thing, I gave myself the target of getting to Chapter 30 by Christmas Day so, providing no calamities befall me, this should be perfectly achievable.  Technically speaking, I should be on the big 30 by this time next week.  And I do so like being ahead of a target so I'm sure I'll dig up at least some motivation to keep going even while mounds of unwrapped presents threaten to collapse and smother me.

On the subject of my other work - as in the real job, the one people actually pay me for - I found out today that I've got a new job!  Hurrah!  I interviewed for it last Friday.  It's in the same place I'm working now but the role is more interesting (proper librarian stuff with books and everything) and I've got more hours, which naturally means more book-buying-funds.

Right, I'm off to go scowl at Chapter 28.  I need to join up two bits of a phone conversation and two bits of face-to-face conversation, and then all those bits together.  I really need to learn how to write things in order.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Chapter Twenty-Six

I normally like to come to a nice clean point in my writing at which to pause before writing these blog posts but this evening I couldn't do it.  Chapter Twenty-Six is being a bitch.

It is especially irritating because finishing Chapter Twenty-Six would put me at the mid-way point in terms of chapters, which would be something of an achievement.  But because my brain hates me, I just can't get the damn thing right.

So I'm taking a breather.  I'm giving it a mini-stew.  I am going to do something else for a couple of hours - write this blog, get some tea, watch the latest episode of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries - before I come back to it.  At this point, I will be hit by a dazzling burst of inspiration and complete it with not a single spot of trouble.

This is my plan - only time will tell if it's anything other than imagination.

Chapter Twenty-Seven is already underway, though.  Rather like Chapter Twenty-Six was before I'd finished Twenty-Five.  I really hope this isn't going to become a habit.  I got in a little bit of a muddle at times with the beginning of this book when I wrote too much of it out of order.  I want to keep as much as I can to the sequence of the novel and yet I'm not just going to ignore an idea if it pops into my head.  Ah, dilemmas!

Right, I'm off to go and ignore Chapter Twenty-Six.  It is going to sit in its word document and think about what it's done.  Once it's had time to consider its life choices, then we'll talk.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The NEXT BIG THING blog hop

I was tagged to be a part of this meme by Reb Alexander at Witchway: A Writer's Journey to Publication, whose debut novel is called The Secrets of Life and Death and is going to be published next autumn. Her version appeared last Wednesday.

What is the title of your next book?
Well if by 'next' this means the one I intend to send to an agent in the hopes of representation, that would be Hide and See.  This is book 1, and I am currently in the process of writing book 2, as yet unnamed.

I also have another, unrelated book - Fall - which is near completion.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I started Hide and See as part of an Advanced Fiction module for my MA.  I have no idea where the idea came from - all I remember is sitting there with a blank page, trying to think of something to write for one of the workshops.  It was raining outside, so I wrote that it was raining.  A young woman - Rhonda - appeared and her story just bloomed from nowhere.  I also remember trying
half-heartedly to not write fantasy but completely failing.

What genre does your book fall under?
Primary World Fantasy

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition? 

Hmm... I've never seen anyone who would be a perfect fit.  I suppose a younger, British version of Jeremy Renner might be good for Joel.  Although that could just be my obsession with The Avengers talking.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Rhonda, a Seer, and Joel, an Empath, search for answers about their abilities and for other 'Specials' like them, all the while avoiding the Hunters who would capture and kill them; but are they safe with their own kind or are they in danger from both sides of this war?

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I would like to be represented by an agency but it does involve actually writing to some for this to be even a slight possibility.  And I will.  Promise.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Around fourteen months, although not continuously as I had other university work to be done in that time, so there were a few months where I didn't look at it at all (usually coinciding with getting marks back for submissions...)

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Books from authors such as Kelley Armstrong, Ann Aguirre and Jaye Wells are in a similar genre.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I've had some fantastic encouragement from people on my course, particularly Reb Alexander and Natasha Liu-Thwaites.  Without their support, I'm not sure I ever would have finished book 1, let alone be writing book 2.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I wanted to write a story set within our world with a fantasy twist - and have not a single vampire in sight.

It is at this pointing in the process that I should be tagging the next round of people to do this meme survey thingy - but alas, I know only one other writer with a writing blog and she's the one who tagged me.  I guess this branch of the blog hop ends here.

Monday, 26 November 2012

First half of the first draft

This evening, I finished Chapter 24.  The first draft, obviously.  I keep having to remind myself that it is only the first draft and that it doesn't matter if it's pretty bad.

Which this chapter is.  I know what I want to do with it but right now, it isn't working.  But instead of agonising over it and going through it again and again, I'm going to put it to bed and move on.  It's a difficult thing for me to do but I'm hoping that in later drafts, when I can view it in the context of the whole story, that a solution will come to light.

And hey, maybe it won't actually be as bad as I think.  I mean, it probably will be but I'm going for a little optimism here.

During this past week, I passed the 50k mark on this book.  Given that my novels tend to finish at a little over 100k, this means that I'm halfway through.  However, while I am at this point on word count, I'm not on chapters.  Which means that I've been waffling.  Not a huge surprise given that I am, in fact, me.  It does mean, however, that some rather extensive pruning is required.

I think it's time to go back to the plan.  My chapter plans aren't necessarily set in stone and can be changed during any of the drafts if I feel something really isn't working.  I've done it before without any great calamities rocking the fabric of time and space.  And while I don't feel that way in terms of the plot (at least in any major way) I do reckon there'll be some changes occurring this week.

There's a fair bit of exposition going on in this novel and I'm tempted to get rid of some of that, but I seem to recall that one criticism of parts of the first book during the MA was a lack of exposition.  It's all about getting the happy medium, I guess.

Monday, 19 November 2012

The other job

After a horrendously stressful day at work today, it was a relief to come home to my other job, the one I don't get paid for but which I might one day, if all the planets align correctly and I don't walk under any ladders or something.

This is how I've come to think of my writing: like it's a job.  I do it every day (thank you calendar with all your little crosses!) with the aim of it being something I might gain an income from at some point in the distance future.  You know, in a world where I actually get round to looking for agents.  Unfortunately on that front, the actual writing feels so much more appealing at the moment!

I'm now essentially in the middle of the story, that big old chunk sandwiched between the beginning and the end, and yet which is too big to really be only one section.  I should probably be more wary about losing pace but to be honest I'm more concerned with getting everything in within a reasonable word count.  Waffling has always been a bit of a thing.

Also, I'm trying to force myself not to get too caught up on every little detail.  I could easily spend ages agonising over the phrasing of just a couple of sentences but would then find that I'd not actually produced all that much.  It's useful to remind myself every so often that this is only the first draft and that all the agonising can be done later.  Something to look forward to and all that.

And I finished a book today: Ranger's Apprentice: The Burning Bridge by John Flanagan.  I'm fairly certain that it's aimed at teenage boys but they get a lot of good books and I'm not going to stop reading them just because I'm not one and never have been.  They're more than welcome to read all the bad Chick Lit which I'm supposed to like.  Fair trade?

Monday, 12 November 2012

Graduation: feelings and stuff

I had my MA graduation ceremony on Friday.  When asked how it went by various lovely people at work today, the adjective that most frequently came to mind was 'cold'.  Because it was, I was, and I had my trusty thermals, fluffy socks and a relatively thick cardigan.  All those girls in their tiny dresses and inappropriately high heels must have been freezing their proverbial knackers off.

I'm not saying that it wasn't moving, interesting, fun and a hundred other things, but I can't help the fact that my overriding impression was related to the temperature.  It's sort of hard to concentrate on anything much when you're that uncomfortable.  And I have a lifetime's worth of experience with being frickin' cold the entire time.  Hence the thermals.

But I did have a good time.  A day off work was obviously something to enjoy right off the bat, but I also got to see friends and have a nice lunch and walk around Winchester which was looking especially pretty: fiery autumn leaves and other such sentimental nonsense.

I did feel rather sad when it came to giving back the gown, though.  I know it's been over a year since I handed in my dissertation but it still felt rather final, returning the physical symbols of my graduation.  I'm not usually one to find such things emotional but there you go.

In writing news, I finished Chapter 20 this evening.  My don't-break-the-chain thingy is still working well and is making my writing feel much more purposeful again.  I have my calendar tacked to a bookcase next to my desk and there's a certain degree of satisfaction in looking at the rows of little blue crosses which shows my consistency.

Now cometh the task of searching for agents.  I really do intend to do it, I promise.  There just aren't enough hours in the day.

Monday, 5 November 2012

I'm an Idiot

As vowed in last week's blog post, I went to my local library in search of a writer's handbook/yearbook in which to find agents.  Alas, there wasn't one, either in the library or in any of the other ones nearby.  I left, wondering when I might find the time to go into Southampton to look in the library there.  I hate going into the city and my half-term break was practically over.

Fortunately, at that moment, I remembered that I actually work in a library and that maybe they have one there, what with all the books and everything.

Yes, I work in a library, in a college, and it took me a frighteningly stupid amount of time to connect this fact with my search for a library book.  I have no excuse, other than being a moron.

Today at work I had a spare moment to search the library catalogue and quickly found what I was looking for.  So now I have a copy of The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook to search through, although it is from 2007.  Nonetheless, that's a six-year improvement on my own copy.  Once my list is compiled (quickly eliminating all the many agents who don't accept fantasy) I'm sure I'll be able to check online to make sure they're still operating.

In other news, the remainder of Chapter 18 was growled at for a large portion of last week, eventually written on Saturday and edited on Sunday.  I'm actually reasonably happy with it, although I'm sure that will change when I come to read the whole thing through in a few months' time and wonder how on earth I ever thought that was good enough to actually be written down.

My MA graduation is this Friday, which means a rather glorious day off work even if much of the morning will be spend worrying that I'll fall over.  Or perhaps fall asleep.  Not to call the whole experience boring but I couldn't hear a damn thing during my BA one (deaf as a post, especially in an echoey cathedral) so I might have to take a book to while away the time.

Kidding.  I think.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Time to Lady Up

My post is rather late this week - not that it really matters to anything but my OCD-brain.  The excuse is that I was in York from Saturday to Tuesday and thus haven't had much of a chance to do anything internet-related until this evening.

I did have long periods of time where I was sat in front of a laptop, however - the train journey to and from York, over four hours each way.  Seeing as Cross Country want to charge extortionate fees for use of their wifi, I went all stone-age and used the laptop only as a text-document-creator for the entire journey.  Crazy idea, I know.

I have, therefore, managed to get Chapter 17 and half of Chapter 18 done, although 17 desperately needs a read-through and 18 will probably require a lot of growling and gnashing of teeth before I'm done with it.

Given that I am currently experiencing the glorious joy that is half-term, I should have some time (though not as much as I'd like) to do some more work on it over the next couple of days.  I'm also hoping to get to the local library in search of a Writer's Handbook which is less than ten years old (mine, alas, is from 2001).  There I will find oodles of agents all just sitting there waiting to receive my manuscript and prepared to clamber over each other in order to get me on their books.

Then will come the horrendous task of editing my wreck of a synopsis into something which doesn't read like it was written by a six-year-old.  Not something I'm looking forward to but I just need to man the f* up (or 'lady the f* up' as we like to say in our house at the moment) and get it done.

Monday, 22 October 2012

It's not like I'm counting down the days or anything

I warn you now, this blog post is going to be shite.

I feel able to say this with reasonable authority because this is the third time I've started this post and I have deleted the previous attempts with high levels of contempt.  So I apologise.  Really, you're probably better off just getting out while you can.  Go make a cup of tea.  Or read a book.  Books are good.

The reason for the impending shite-ness is most likely my generally grumpy mood this evening.  A dangerous decision, then, to write a blog post under such circumstances but if you're a regular reader of this blog (you have my sympathies) then you will know what I'm like with deadlines.  Deadlines or death! (Or at least a relatively good excuse.)

I am in a way happy to report that said grumpiness is not the result of a lack of writing, which is otherwise often the cause.  While Book Two (STILL NEED TO DECIDE ON A TITLE) isn't exactly tearing along at a terrific pace, it is at least moving and I'm still working with my metaphorical chain unbroken.  Hurrah!

I see no cure for the grumpiness tonight other than to frown it out, so I will instead look forward to brighter days - i.e. the end of the week, when half-term finally arrives and I get to bid farewell to work for a week.  And I'm going up to York on Saturday to visit my younger brother so a big HURRAY for that!  I will have to choose a book, methinks, as I'm currently 'between-books', as a normal person might be 'between-jobs', and will need a good one for the four-plus hour train journey to the wilds of the North.

Apparently there might be snow.  I'm sceptical but then it is quite a long way up.

The various notebooks will of course be accompanying me to York so that I can continue to write and in the process worry that I'm not keeping track of my word count.  It'll be a good opportunity, though, to do some more work on the background to my world.  I've given up for now in my quest to find books about the beliefs of medieval witches after the last book on witchcraft I got out of the library told me that such a book needed to be written but that this wasn't it.  Helpful.

So instead I'll be making stuff up out of the madness in my head.  Brace yourselves.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Witchcraft research

This weekend I finally got round to doing a bit more research on the history of witchcraft.  I say 'finally' because I got the books out of the library in around July and have been continually renewing them ever since.  I kind of feel bad about it but the library really shouldn't have made it so easy for me to do so, all online and far too convenient.

I've found it a little trickier than I'd imagined, this research.  Because in many ways I'm essentially a Victorian, I prefer researching from books but unfortunately my local library didn't have the biggest selection.  There were basically two books on the subject, both only vaguely relevant.

The problem is, really, that I'm not looking for witchcraft history in terms of how witches were perceived and persecuted (the witch-hunts etc) but rather their beliefs and traditions.  I've not really found a great deal on this, I assume because they wouldn't exactly have written it down and made it freely accessible to the outside world, what with all the death and everything.  I could be wrong, of course, and would be very happy if this were the case.  If there is a source I'm missing I'd love to know what it is.

The books I have are both very different from each other.  One documents a very basic history of witchcraft and how it operates today.  This book does document beliefs, ceremony and tradition etc, but much of it is 'New Age' and thus apparently originated in the 1970s.  The second book is a heavy-duty academic study about Anglo-Saxon traditions, but deals little with the actual beliefs and more about the status of 'magic' and its users in society.

I'm not really looking for an absolute definitive guide to historical witchcraft practices because I intend to manipulate it anyway, creating a Chinese-whisper-like history for my own world.  But at the moment I feel like I'm working off very little.  I need something to base my manipulations on.

Maybe I'll just have to let my imagination loose to run free as it likes.  Now there's a scary thought.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012


The chain remains unbroken.  It has, in a way, been a surprisingly easy habit to settle into, with my day feeling off if it gets to the evening and I haven't done any work on my writing.  It helps, I suppose, that up until about a month ago I used to write most days anyway, and that I enjoy it.  If I had to do something tedious every day - like ironing or dusting or clothes shopping - I probably would have given up by day three.

This isn't to say that I've managed to get a huge amount done because, alas, I haven't.  This week (and particularly the weekend and yesterday) having been particularly hectic means that I haven't got down as many words on the page as I'd anticipated.  But no worries - I've done Chapter 12 and half of Chapter 13, which is all better than a kick in the teeth.

I'm hoping to get quite a bit done tomorrow afternoon.  Since the Evil Blue Chairs of Death (the bane of offices throughout the country) have found their way to Mottisfont, I've been getting back pain and thus have cut down my time archiving to just half-days.  This has at least freed up my Wednesday afternoons for what I hope will be some much-needed writing time.

Also, I am currently reading Heartless by Gail Carriger, the fourth in her Parasol Protectorate series.  I got books three and four for my birthday and, having speedily digested book three within a couple of days, I'm taking a more leisurely pace with this one.  The language is gorgeous and there's such humour in the series which I'd forgotten about since reading the first two.  I'd highly recommend it for fantasy readers who want something well-written but which doesn't take itself too seriously.

In other news, my little baby brother (i.e. that six-foot-three, eighteen-year-old, straight-A-achieving young man) has gone off to university in York.  Given that he is the main person to whom I nerd-out about certain things, it's all been a bit of a shock to the system.  Unfortunately for him, it took him a couple of days to find people who weren't obsessed with getting plastered every single night but he found them at last, so hurrah!!

I will not wish I was back at uni... I will not wish I was back at uni...

Oh, who am I kidding?

Monday, 1 October 2012

Don't Break the Chain

I'm starting a new thing.  And I don't mean a book - I mean a way to work more consistently on my writing.

Earlier in the year, I was writing pretty much every day.  It would have to be a pretty hectic day for me to miss doing any writing-related work at all and, even if one day's stuff would be utter crap, at least I was moving forward.  And you know what they say: the more you write the better you get.  I'm a firm believer in this statement, especially considering the car-crash of some of my writing back in college.

So, this thing.  It's called 'Don't Break the Chain' and I got it from a video from a youtube vlogger, the Stephen-Fry-approved charlieissocoollike.  Here's his channel, and here's the video itself.

The idea is simple: to write (or do whatever task you wish to do consistently) every single day, without fail.  Essentially, not breaking the chain.  I'll be printing myself off a little calendar within the next couple of days to pin on my wall so that my little OCD-brain can happily cross off each day and I can pretend that I am actually a productive individual.

I originally watched the video when it first appeared in April and, while I liked to idea, I didn't implement because I didn't feel I needed to.  I was motivating myself tolerably enough (I recall through the rose-tinted delusion of my mind, while if I look back at my blog posts I might, in fact, be lying).  It wasn't until going back to my 'proper' job last month that I found my production levels dropping even further than my grumpiness-inspired levels of August.

Therefore, we're going with the crossing-stuff-off-of-charts/calendars thing.  I made this decision on my birthday, perhaps as some sort of age-crisis thingy, and started it the next day.  I have managed it each day since then, despite the absence of an actual calendar, and while I haven't suddenly completed the second book, sent it off to agents and received a staggeringly fabulous publishing deal, I have made some progress.

Chapter 11 is finally done, after having been growled at for a significant amount of time, and Chapter 12 is underway.  I'm having a fight with some character names at the moment, though that's more to do with a personal fascination with symbolism than anything to do with the plot.  That and a couple of vexing students at college - both sharing the same first name - had the same name as one of my characters.  Given that I was starting to be intensely annoyed by said character, the baby name books came out again and it all sort of snowballed from there.

I'm closer to getting a preliminary title for book two, but it probably needs me staring at it for a few more hours until I'm satisfied.

Right, back to the names - I know there's a perfect one in there somewhere.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Trip to Uni

Last week, I handed in my MA dissertations at uni.  Going back there felt almost like coming home.  I have, after all, spend four years of my life studying there (even if it wasn't a continuous period) so I'd have to have some sort of serious memory issues if I didn't feel some strong sense of familiarity.

And yet despite this I still had to ask for directions from the kindly student helpers there, stationed around the campus to help freshers students.  They asked what I'd be studying there (cue sobbing and cries of "Nothing! It's all over!")  Yes, I was mistaken for a fresher proving that a) it's my own fault for asking for help in the first place, b) I do look eighteen, like that checkout lady in Asda thought that time and c) I must have looked sufficiently lost and clueless to pass as someone who had never been there before.

In my defence, there's still a lot of building work going on there and I didn't know where they'd put the Faculty of Arts office.  It turns out it's in the same place as it was when I handed in my dissertations the first time round (in some temporary cabins in the ditch), although the route I was taken to get there was one I'd never been before in all my years of attending.  Given that the first hand-in was a year ago, I think I can probably be forgiven for not assuming they'd still be housed in temporary accommodation.

As I entered the Faculty Office, it felt like a genuinely emotion experience, strange for me in that I don't often get upset at things which I think I ought to.  This was it, The Last One, the final time of coming here to submit my work.  After this, there was only the graduation ceremony in November.  The drama of the whole thing was squashed fairly quickly, however, in the almost comical effort of the staff member and myself testing out half-a-dozen pens, scratching and scrawling all over the place, trying and ultimately failing to find one that worked, in the end resorting to me digging one out of my Mary Poppins bag and the university lady seeming a little embarrassed that the uni couldn't provide writing implements.  Lucky, really, that I was a writing student and thus never go anywhere without a pen.

The dissertations contained an earlier draft of Hide and See, which I made a particular point of not looking at for fear of wanting to burn the things.  It's all about the book two now.  I've managed to do a little work on Hide and See's sequel this week (I NEED TO THINK OF A DAMN TITLE!!!!), though it's perhaps not as extensive as my bravely optimistic self pledged last week.  I've also added a fair bit to the notes of the piece I'm not supposed to be working on, which I'm finding increasingly interesting with each new thread I weave in.

In other news, it's my birthday on Thursday (alas, spent at work as usual) but I'll hopefully be getting some books because, let's face it, I don't have enough (though my overladen bookshelves might disagree).  Also, there might be chocolate waffles in the afternoon if the tea room still does them.  Books and chocolate waffles: what more could a girl ask for?

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Pledging to do better

I'm breaking my self-imposed rule and posting a day late this week.  Earlier this year I usually just updated whenever I managed to force myself to do so, so lately I've been trying to make it more of a regular thing, i.e. Monday evenings.  But yesterday evening, The Avengers happened.  (Or 'The Avengers Assemble' if we're giving it the silly UK title)  The DVD arrived in the post and, really, how could I resist?

But now that I've stopped watching it long enough to update my blog, I - alas - have precious little to report.  My writing progress this week has been so minimal as to be practically nothing.  My rubbish, let's-face-it-not-good-enough excuse is simply that I've not yet adjusted back to the whole being at work thing, and so arrive home too frustrated to do anything except read/watch other people's stories rather than produce my own.

But I hereby pledge to do better this week!  Because I'm starting to become the grumpy sod that I gradually morph into when I've not done any proper writing for a while.  And because I've come to that point (yet again) of really missing the joy I get when I write something good; the thrill of the words doing just what I wanted them to do.  I crave the satisfaction of producing something, of making a thing, which baking cakes and stitching rag-monsters can only partially satisfy. Plus, my poor little brain is sorely begging for a work-out.

I have been reading a couple of interesting things this week, though, and there's that old rule (which I so desperately cling to) that writers must read etc.  It's in the same genre as Hide and See, so double points to me!

Tomorrow I'll be picking up my dissertations from the binders (hopefully) and taking them up to Winchester to hand in.  And then I think I'll sit in the middle of the campus and refuse to leave until they let me be a student again.  Sounds like a flawless plan to me.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Graduation Preparation

I printed off two copies of my MA dissertation this evening.  It's been almost a year since I handed it in for marking but I'm only now getting around to having them hard-bound to give to the university in preparation for my graduation.  It's not forgetfulness or simple laziness that has prevented me from getting it done before.  It's the sixty quid I'll never see again once it's done.  Of course this shouldn't seem such a monumental sum after paying four grand for the actual MA but considering I will usually agonise for weeks about spending a couple of quid on a book (not even an exaggeration, unfortunately) spending that amount of money has been a tough idea to deal with.

But the three-hundred-plus pages are all printed out and ready for the trip to Romsey.  We managed it with just one printer and ink cartridge this time, which feels like one heck of an achievement after the last time.  In order to hand them in the first time round I think it required three printers and various locations hunting down printer cartridges.  I'm sure I must have ranted about it on the blog at the time.  Sounds like something I'd do.

The graduation is in November and I'll have to make sure I wrap up warmly this time.  One of my main memories of my BA graduation was of being cold (not exactly a massive surprise considering I am, in the words of my father, a corpse).  I also remember not being able to hear a great deal but there's not really anything I can do about that one, other than getting some sort of ear-trumpet.  Fetching.

In other news, I've managed to finish the chapter-plan for the rest of Hide and See's book two (I really need to think of a title!)  It's all written out long-hand at the moment though, but shouldn't take too long to type up so long as I don't change my mind too much as I'm going through it.  I think I'm quite happy with it.  In my first rough planning of the book there were certain scenes which didn't fall where I wanted them to.  Now with it better structured, the dramatic events are spread evenly throughout the narrative, rather than all being lumped towards the end.

I'm going to try to write the rest of book two in a more linear way.  While I did restrict myself to the first ten chapters to start with, the parts I wrote were out of sequence for a while, leaving me to eventually patch it all together.  When I eventually read it all through again I'm sure I'll be wanting to pull my hair out.  So I'm resolving to do it much more sensibly for the rest of it.  Right.  Let's see how that one goes.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Farewell to the holidays

Tomorrow I start back at work.  Well, sort of.  We only need to go in for the afternoon and it's for training, but the point is, the summer holidays are over.  Please wait while I weep uncontrollably in the corner.

Okay, so that's a touch melodramatic.  I think perhaps it's getting me down because I haven't achieved as much as I wanted to this summer, and of course have no-one but myself to blame for this.  The writing-to-agents thing stalled quite fantastically last month.  I basically terrified myself out of doing it and convinced myself that it's never going to happen anyway because I'm so rubbish and no-one will want to read my work so what was the point anyway and I might as well not even bother - and so on and so forth.  Which is of course a stupid attitude to take - if I don't try there is no chance I will succeed as opposed to there being a slight chance if I do try - but I never said my brain was logical.  I have a rather hefty dose of crazy to contend with here, people.

And because of said crazy I felt less happy with the writing itself this past couple of weeks too.  I've managed to get to my ten-chapter-mark, which was my aim.  Kind of.  I originally aimed for the first third which, somewhere along the way, got turned into 'the first ten chapters' in my head, despite the fact that the first third would actually be more like seventeen chapters.  This is why I did a degree in English and not in maths.  So even though I'm not a third of the way in, at least I'm over 20k in, which is better than nothing I suppose.

Ideas for the new story which I'm not supposed to be thinking about are flowing thick and fast.  I've got plenty of little stories just coming into existence and several are already starting to link up, which is quite exciting in a way that my more established stories sometimes lack.  I don't know whether this new story will actually turn into a thing - it will be a monster if it does - but it's nice just to have ideas I'm excited about.

On a tangent, the checkout lady in Asda today asked me if I was 'buying all my stuff to go off to uni'.  Putting aside the fact that I apparently look eighteen-years-old, I suddenly wished that I could say 'yes'.  If only learning was a job.  And I don't mean in the 'learning how to engage and empathise with the customer' way.  I mean in the 'actually putting new things in my brain way'.  Mind you, if I do look eighteen, maybe I could just wander into random uni lectures and get taught that way.  After all, how many times did anyone ever check my ID at uni?  I do believe it rhymes with 'hero'.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Something Else

I'm bored of these weekly updates on how my writing is progressing (or not progressing) and I'm sure my very few readers are tired of it too.  I must have written about something else in these blogs before - something other than how many chapters I've completed or whatever - before I became so obsessed with the idea of progress.  I must have done something constructive... I must have move forward...

I feel like I'm at risk of losing the fun in the whole process.  I love writing, and I don't want to stop loving it.

So this week, instead of stressing about chapters and agent letters and that damn synopsis, I'm going to talk about something else.  Anything else.  Because being stressed is not why I want to be a writer.  I've got a job for that and it can provide plenty enough stress by itself, thank you very much.

Alright then.  What else have I done this week?  Well, there's Mottisfont.  I volunteered as usual on Wednesday cataloguing the archives, but during August I've also been working on Tuesdays as well, cleaning statues in the grounds.  I think we're terming it 'statue conservation' because it sounds more professional and would look better on a CV, but I essentially spent several hours scraping moss off concrete.  It's probably seventeenth-century concrete, but concrete nonetheless.

There's something quite therapeutic about it though - doing a physical task and seeing the results afterwards.  Plus my poor little OCD-riddled brain gets rather a lot of satisfaction from making something all neat and tidy again.  In previous weeks we'd worked on a statue of Apollo, made of a much more glamorous marble, with one of the other ladies frequently asking passing visitors whether they agreed that he had very nice legs.  He did, but I still found it amusing.

Working in the archives has more potential for tedium, what with it essentially being me and a spreadsheet for hours on end.  But there's plenty of stuff to spark my interest, particularly the photos.  Looking at photographs (many over a hundred years old) of these magnificent places is really as close as I'm going to get to travelling back in time and it doesn't take much for my imagination to conjure something more.  A personal would have walked here.  A conversation could have taken place there.  Plus the odd little gems of Victorian photo-bombing are always great to find.

I'm working on Hinton Ampner House in the archives at the moment, and there's a great little ghost story which is connected with the old (now demolished) house which stood a metres from the present site.  I don't get spooked by stuff that easily but that one chilled me.  It's funny how stories about the dead can make a place, like a house torn down centuries ago, really come to life.

And there we go - no matter what I do, I'm dragged back to the stories...

But I need to remember to focus on other parts of my life because apparently they matter as well - in terms of being an author, I mean.  Look at the agents' letter that I was growling over this week - they need to know about me, and unless I make myself into more than just my writing, they're not going to want anything to do with me.  I am a product almost as much as my book is, which is quite frankly frightening.

Wow, that seems like a depressing thought to end on.  Or maybe it's a positive one?  Live life and all that bollocks.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Bits and Pieces

Chapters Five and Six were this week added to the imaginary list of 'Book 2 chapters I've done but am not necessarily completely happy with but will do for this draft'.  I should probably keep my imaginary list titles shorter.  Or perhaps stop using my time to imagine lists.

Chapter seven is over halfway there, with bits and pieces already floating about for eight, nine and ten.  It was one of my aims to have the first ten chapters done by the end of the summer break and I'm hoping that I might just be able to get it done, provided I don't get another attack of the grumps which leads me to believe that I'm useless at writing and that I'll never get anything published so what's the point.

My second aim of the summer isn't moving along so well.  I started work on my query letter today, using an earlier version which was originally written for a module on the MA.  I was pretty convinced that it was shite then and reading it today hasn't really changed that mindset.  It's alright when it gets going I suppose, but the first paragraph makes me want to pull my metaphorical teeth out.

I also need to find a shed-load of agents to write to.  So far I've got a grand total of one, though that's really just because I was only required to find one for above-mentioned MA assignment.  Whenever I read a book in the genre I'm writing in, I always look at the agents they mention but it seems to me that they're always US- or Australia-based.  I don't know much about the rules of agent-begging but I should imagine we have to be in the same continent.

My brand new idea from last week refused to shut up so I've decided to go with it, to some extent.  Nothing substantial, just notes and so on, but I couldn't be bothered to argue my brain into submission and make myself bad tempered in the process.  So I'm having a ponder about this new interesting bunch of characters and the world they inhabit (a whole new world, rather excitingly) and writing down odd and ends about them as they occur to me.  I'm sure there are plenty of people who would tell me that I'm an idiot for thinking about more than one story at once but I don't make a habit of listening to people.  I'm in my own little world over here.

I finished off reading John Green's Looking for Alaska yesterday in the lovely sunny garden and may - depending on where my head wanders off to this week - write a review of it.  Hopefully containing something other than 'Why do you do this to me John Green....?'

Monday, 13 August 2012

New Ideas Not Welcome

I tried to start this blog post off in a different way than normal, bored with my current format, but I ended up going into such a mind-numbing drivel of nothingness that I've decided to stick to form and just go on my merry ranting way as usual.

Or that's my intention, at least.  I've been sat here for over half an hour now and have very little to show for it other than a mounting level of frustration.

I watched a television programme earlier, recorded many months ago, about the women at the court of King Charles II.  It gave me lots of ideas, even beginning to plant the idea for a book in my head, giving me a few characters and then a plot and then some subplots and relationships.  All of this is simultaneously very exciting and very annoying.  Because now I can't seem to think about anything else.

Therefore I would like to say this to my brain: I don't need any more new ideas at the moment, thanks very much.  See all these half-finished works I've got going on?  Yeah, let's focus on that, shall we?  That would be jolly smashing.

But I don't think that's going to work somehow, not with the utter lack of logic my brain possesses.  And no, I don't know why I ended up talking to my brain in a very posh voice.  Nor, really, why I'm actually talking to my brain at all.

See, this is what happens when I force myself to stare at an empty blog entry for minutes on end and make myself put something, anything, down on the page.  You get insanity, people, pure and simple.

So I daresay the next few days will be occupied with me trying to ignore said new idea and trying to focus on Hide and See's sequel, still tragically without a name, the poor little thing.  I did make some progress this week, finally nailing down the first four chapters, although I am (predictably) less than happy with them.  Oh well, that's what second (and third and fourth...) drafts are for!

Monday, 6 August 2012


My early chapters are beginning to take shape.  Slowly.  There's quite a bit of re-jigging required because of my inability to shut up, meaning that I'm going to have to add at least one more chapter than I originally planned for.  This now makes me very glad that I only did the chapter-plan for the first third of the novel rather than the whole thing.

So most of Chapter Two has now become Chapter Three; Chapter Three becomes Four and poor old Chapter Five gets moved for the third time to become Six.  This all sounds very confusing and makes me wish that my chapters had names rather than just numbers.  Not that it would probably help with tracking where everything keeps moving to.  In fact, it might make it more complicated.

I'm hoping that I'll be able to cut a fair bit out of the (very rough) draft of Chapter One as it's rather horrendously over word count at the moment, and that's without any kind of continuous narrative structure to it.  It's just chunks at the moment: scenes and thoughts which don't yet fit together.

But I'm not too stressed out about that (even though saner people would probably say I should be) because that's what Chapter Two-now-Three was and filling that in proved to be quite an interesting - and dare I say fun - experience.  And very satisfying when it's done.

I also feel like I should be doing more reading at the moment.  Since my failed attempt at reading The Warlord's Legacy during my holiday, I hadn't picked up anything new.  Sure I've re-read plenty of books and bits of books but I felt that didn't really count.  And we're always told how important it is for writers to read and who am I to argue with the experts?

This week, therefore, I started a new book, chosen on the advice of my younger brother.  It's Looking for Alaska by John Green.  I've already read (and reviewed) one of John Green's books before, and I'm a follower of his youtube channel, so I'm already predisposed to like it, despite it being out of my genre.  Although it has also been proved many times that I can't force myself to like something however much I want to.  So we shall see.... *dramatic music*

And lastly, I'd like to point out that it's August.  This means that it's the oh-so-scary month in which I have pledged to start sending out begging letters to agents for Hide and See.  'Terrified' doesn't even begin to cover it.

Monday, 30 July 2012

New Worlds

Summer didn't quite last a week but at least we got a few days of sunshine to help prevent a country-wide epidemic of rickets come winter.  With this Monday being decidedly chillier than the last, there was no sitting outside for me today.  Yep, it was back to fluffy socks and hooded jumpers.  Probably a bit excessive for some people but I have been reliably informed that I am in fact a corpse.

The cooler weather did give me the opportunity to type up all of the long-hand work I'd done during the sunnier days.  This managed to perfectly illustrate one of my main problems with long-hand, though: an inability to track my word count.  As is my habit, I appear to have waffled, to the extent that I now need to do some major cutting on chapters two and four as well as the previously-mentioned chapter one.  *sigh*  I hate cutting.

I've also recently starting doing some research for elements I only touched on in book one - namely, witchcraft.  I'm not going full-on Harry Potter, wands and broomsticks.  Although my novel is obviously still fantasy, I want to have the story grounded in the idea of history.  It's easy to do, really - to simply imagine that all that talk about witches and magic hundreds of years ago wasn't down to ignorance and superstition.  To think what if it was true, in some form, and the stories simply got distorted over time.  I love that idea.  There are just so many possibilities.

Building up my own mythology is something I'm really trying to work hard on.  It was easy enough in the first book to gloss over the details because the reader was discovering as much as Rhonda was - that is to say, very little.  Now, my characters need to gain knowledge.  They need to start learning how to gain the upper hand.  And in order for that to happen I need to make my world strong.

It's something I've always admired about the great fantasy works - how those authors (Rowling, Tolkien, Lewis) are able to create such vivid, complete worlds.  We never see it all in the novels, but you can still feel that the details are known, that they're there, just beneath the surface.  I want to do that, to create a world so rich and so solid that it feels real.

Not a difficult goal at all...

I feel exhausted already.

Monday, 23 July 2012


I sat outside in the sunshine for a few hours today, my extravagantly large hat keeping the sun from burning my face.  It was bliss to finally feel warm again.  Having spent so much of the winter - and a large chunk of the 'summer' - being perpetually cold, I can't express how great it was to feel the sun heating me right through to my bones.

I'm like Superman, except without the awesome powers, ability to save the world and the underwear over my tights.

I always find I'm more in the mood for writing when it's sunny.  Really, I'm more in the mood to do anything when it's sunny, which is probably one of the reasons why I've felt so unproductive these last couple of months.  Of course this desire to write can be a little problematic in that the sun is, naturally, outside and my computer is not.  I therefore end up writing it all long-hand.

I have no problem with the good ol' pen and paper - after all, it's not going to crash on me, is it? - although it can sometimes take me a little while to get round to writing it all up on the computer.  But at least these little bits get some extra editing, as I transfer it from one medium to the other.

The first third of book two is not all that coherent at the moment.  I'm still writing bits and pieces rather than doing it in a linear (sane) way.  Right now, I'm trying to fill in the blanks.  And of course this fill-in-the-blanks thing would be much easier if I was at my computer with the rest of what I've written so far, but as covered above we have the problem of the sun not being located in my house.

I worked on some scenes for chapters 2 and 4 today.  This seemed like a reasonably sensible choice give that chapters 3 and 5 are already done.  But what of chapter 1?  Well, it has now gone from being woefully sparse to now having too many words, so I'll have to do some significant editing on that to get it up to scratch.  Oh dear, why do first chapters always give me so much trouble?

Here's hoping that the sunshine will last at least a little while longer so that I can get more done.  As my horseriding instructor put it today, I appear to be solar-powered.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Why I should never answer the phone

So right now, I'm the most embarrassed I have been in a long time.  It is not a feeling I enjoy.  This is why I'm such a hermit, I reckon: because I'm too much of a twat to be released onto the general public.

My tale of woe isn't writing related, but I'm going to talk about it anyway in the hopes that - like talking to some sort of silent therapist - it won't plague me for the next several months, reducing me to a puddle of embarrassed goo.  It's not even that much of interesting story.  It's not really interesting at all.  But given that I spend too much time in my head - and not always in an enjoyable way - I figured I'm going to air the angst anyway, regardless of its entertainment value.

I just answered the phone.  Not something too extraordinary, you would think.  Something any normal person would be able to do without making a complete idiot of themselves.  Well, to start with I, for reasons best known only to my unconscious mind, answered it in a stupid voice, assuming it would be my father calling from France.  Then joy!  It was indeed my father, allowing me to give my pratishness full reign over the course of the conversation.

Except of course that it wasn't my father.  The horrendous static had in fact disguised the voice of the caller to the extent that I assumed it was my father but was in fact one of my father's friends (who I've met perhaps once), a fact I only realised when he asked to speak to my father.

Needless to say, with my face now glowing hotter than a non-British-summer sun, I hastily concluded the phone call, opened my door and screamed my embarrassed woe to my brother.  So now I will never leave the house, answer the phone or look at another person ever again, just in case it is this friend of my father's, who know doubt wonders what sort of idiot my parents have raised.

Ugh.  Okay.  Rant over.

Do I feel purged, light as a feather, free from the burden of emotional turmoil?  Well no, not really.  I'm pretty sure I still feel like a twat.

On to less angsty subjects (that which I had started writing about before my ill-conceived decision to answer the damn telephone) - the writing thing.  The actual purpose of my blog, rather than it being a vehicle for my self-obsessed ranting.

I think I'm going to have to write myself a schedule, for both Hide and See and its as-yet-unnamed sequel.  Talking with Natasha, a friend from the MA, I gave myself two targets ending with '...and I aim to get that done by the end of August.'

Admirable goals, to be sure, but looking increasingly unlikely if I don't get my arse in gear and spend more time writing and less time being an idiot.

Progress for my writing has always gone better when I've had a strict schedule to follow so I'm thinking that I should stick with what has worked in the past.  I intend to finish the first third of the sequel's first draft and I need to start sending begging letters out to agents for book 1.

I know which option sounds more terrifying.  Yes, that would be Option Number Two - the one which gives me more opportunities to make a complete arse of myself.  Not that that's particularly difficult.  Clearly.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Wishing for Thursday

I am returned from Dublin, with The Warlord's Legacy unread but a few partial scenes for Hide and See's sequel either typed or handwritten in various places.

(I really need to start thinking of a title for the sequel.  I can't keep calling it 'The Sequel'.)

I was disappointed with The Warlord's Legacy (as you can probably tell from the not-having-read-it-thing).  I only got to the beginning of chapter three and gave up.  In the short amount I read, I think we'd been in at least four different points of view, and none of them were particularly engaging.  The main character (as I judged from the blurb, not from the actual novel) didn't seem all that likeable.  I know characters need to have flaws but this man just seemed too unappealing for me to care about.

Therefore, I am sorry, but this is going back on the shelf.  Maybe I'll pick it up again at a later date when I'm in a more charitable mood!

I'm happier with the few bits of writing I did during my holiday.  There isn't much, but what I did I felt reasonably good about.  I also might have finally found the beginning of chapter one!  Hurrah!  Although knowing me, it will change drastically by the time draft three or four eventually comes around.

I also had an idea about how to keep my new world ordered in my head.  The fortunate thing about Primary-World fantasy fiction is that I don't have to create an entirely new reality, but there is still plenty of lore I need to keep track of, especially in book two (and book three should I ever get there!)  I'd hate to make a mess of it so I'm going to put myself in the proverbial shoes of my characters, and keep note of it the way they do (although there'll be more colour-coding in mine, I think).

It's all felt a little hectic since I got back on Saturday.  I spent Sunday trying to catch up on everything I missed - it's extraordinary how many mundane little things need to be done after just a week away - and yesterday and today I had training days at work.  Tomorrow is volunteering as usual but Thursday... ah glorious Thursday!  How you beckon enticingly to me from the future!

Thursday I will finally sit down with my notes and figure out just what is going on.  That's the plan, anyway.

Saturday, 30 June 2012


I was going to start this blog post with an update on book 2 - I had the first half-sentence written out and everything - but I changed my mind, for two reasons:

a) Not much to report (*hangs head in shame*)


b) I'm going to Dublin!!!

As in today.  This afternoon.  Leaving in less than two hours.  Whoop whoop!

I feel horribly unprepared, convinced I must have forgotten something vitally important.  This is probably due to the fact that I only started packing yesterday.  That and the fact that I always feel like this before I go on holiday.  It doesn't matter how many lists I make and how many times I check them, I will always feel like I've missed something.

It is my darling sister that I'm dragging along for this holiday.  I say dragging because it's fairly close to the truth.  Dublin seems to be very much more my kind of place than hers: museums, libraries, bookshops, men with Irish accents... The only thing which seems to have appealed to her about it is the trams.  But I've been hunting out some places for her to go shopping, so we'll take turns at being mind-numbingly bored by the other's activity.

My holiday reading is The Warlord's Legacy by Ari Marmell, another of those books I got for Christmas and haven't got round to reading yet.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it'll be a good'un.

Right, I'm off to go check that I've packed my passport twenty-thousand times.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Where I've been and where I need to go

I finally got round to finishing the editing of Hide and See yesterday.  I say 'finish' in that this draft is complete.  I don't doubt that there will be several thousand more edits after this (please let that be an exaggeration) but nonetheless, I feel it is complete enough to send off to various wonderful beta readers who offered to look at it for me.  Just as soon as I can remember who it was that offered all those weeks ago when I originally said I was going to finish it.

I did some work on book 2 earlier in the week as well.  I think the last thing I'd said on the blog was that I'd written chapter 3, but since then chapter 3 has become chapter 5 and I have written a different chapter 3 and a large chunk of chapter 1, along with various other bits from chapters 2-8.  Sound confusing?  Welcome to my head.

Unfortunately, chapter 1 isn't finished because I can't think how to start it (and thus the whole book).  My problem lies in the fact that Hide and See originally started quite slowly and I didn't like it.  I then edited it so that the first few chapters were much more exciting, something which I feel works much better.

Now, book 2 starts in a slow, quiet way.  Seeing a pattern here?  The problem is, I can't figure out a way to make the start more exciting given that the peaceful setting at the beginning is needed (for various reasons which I won't go into here).  So how do I create an engaging beginning?

I've been considering starting it with a vision of the (much more action-packed) future - ah, the joys of having a Seer for the main character! - but I'm worried that this feels too much like a starting-a-novel-with-a-dream thing.  Which is apparently very bad, according to a writing blog I read earlier this week.

This will be needing a lot of thought.

Anyway, on the whole I'm feeling more positive about book 2 than I was earlier in the week.  This is down to said editing of book 1 yesterday.  Having gone through the complete story (rather than the mismatched fragments which currently make up book 2) I got a clearer picture of where I've been and where I need to go.  And I actually found I quite liked my characters again, rather than finding them frustrating for not doing what they're told.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Too much like fun

In the past week, I have read three books.  I have been told many times that reading is an essential activity for a writer, and yet I still can't quite convince my conscience that I haven't been wasting my time.  Mainly because I enjoy reading and figure that anything I like can't possibly be work.

Not that I don't enjoy writing, obviously (although, let's be honest, that doesn't really feel too much like work either) but there doesn't seem to be a great deal of effort involved in the reading process.  Someone else has already done the hard work.  All that's left for me to do is sit back and enjoy their story.

Of course, while I'm reading the book I also pick out bits which could be changed.  Sentences which might have flowed better if they were reordered.  Repetitions of words within a sentence or paragraph.  Typos.  The usual stuff.  I can't help it anymore - things like that just leap out at me, for which I have the MA to thank.  I guess this is a good thing, even if it can take you out of the story sometimes.

I have been doing some writing too, still working on those early chapters for book 2.  Today a few of the scenes came together, bits were added or filled in, and I hope tomorrow to complete a chapter (although where that one will actually fall, I don't know).

That previous sentence made me think that maybe I ought to be finalising my chapter-plan.  But somehow, that doesn't sound as fun.  And apparently I'm a five-year-old this week, and won't be paying attention to anything even remotely practical.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Jubilee, excuses and trains

This time, I could blame the Jubilee for my lack of posting but I'm really starting to feel like I should stop making excuses and just get on with it.  Man-up and all that, even if that feels vaguely anti-feminist to say.  Woman-up?  Sounds a little odd.

The end of last week saw some writing progress, this time on the computer seeing as the sun had gone and buggered off behind the clouds again.  On Thursday and Friday I wrote Chapter 3 of Hide and See's sequel, which is slightly bizarre in that I've not actually written Chapters 1 and 2 yet.

I wrote Hide and See in a very linear fashion, moving chapter-by-chapter through the book, and only jotting down rough ideas for later parts, in addition to my neatly-tabled plan.  This time, I seem to be writing scenes whenever they occur to me, without worrying about whereabouts they'll appear in the novel.  I've yet to decide whether or not this is a good thing - time will tell I guess.

When I say I don't know where they'll appear, I have at least been keeping these scenes to the first third of the novel.  I don't think I could write something from the end because I don't know for certain how I'm going to get there yet.  I mean, I've planned it but it's very unlikely that it's actually going to pan out that way.  Such is the nature of planning sometimes: do so with great thought, then largely disregard if something better comes to mind.

In other news, the deadline for the Good Housekeeping competition passed and I didn't hear anything.  Not hugely surprised (or surprised at all, in fact) given the fact that it was the first time I'd ever entered a competition like that.  Plus my entry was quite violent, much like most of what I write (I'm sure something could be said about my mental state here) and perhaps not really appropriate for the lovely people who read such magazines.

While writing this blog post, I departed for almost an hour in order to go stand on a bridge in the freezing June wind to watch a steam train. (*cough* anorak *cough*) and it was really quite marvellous.  I stood right over the top of it and felt the bridge shake as it went underneath.  But it also served as an interesting writing exercise - whether I could interrupt my train of thought (unintentional pun, I promise) mid-flow and then pick it up easily upon return.  And while I think I managed it, I feel rather sorry for my sister who had the unpleasant task of interrupting me mid-thought.  It wasn't pretty.

Sunday, 27 May 2012


So in case you hadn't noticed, the sun has been out this week.  Out and glorious and marvellous and all too wonderful to miss.  Thus, I have spent a good chunk of this week sat in the garden, drinking up that sunshine before it inevitably disappears behind a curtain of cloud.

This has meant, however, that I haven't been doing all the things which I ought to have done this week.  Take this here blog, for instance.  I fully intended to write a post on Tuesday but then the sun thing happened and here we are on Sunday with my finally having gotten round to it.

I also intended to finish the final tweaks to my latest Hide and See draft, ready to send off to a volunteer beta reader.  And have I done it?  That would be a no, what with the computer being inside and the sun being outside.

I haven't been completely useless this week, however.  I've finally started doing some writing for book two, long-hand, thereby making it compatible with the whole sitting-outside-ness.  I've written several scenes which, while I know they'll occur towards the beginning of the book, I'm not yet sure of the order or what chapter they'll fall in.  I'm focusing on getting the feel for the book at the moment: I don't want to over-plan the thing to the point that it feels sterile.

I also read a book: Generation 18 by Keri Arthur.  I'd read several of Arthur's books for my dissertation last year.  Her books were definitely the best of all the Primary World fiction I read during that time, with many others tending towards cliché and repetition.  I found Generation 18 for sale in Totton Library.  20p: how could I resist?  Alas, it is the second book in a trilogy but I managed to follow it well enough and rather enjoyed it too.  Considering hunting out book three.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green tells the story of Hazel, a teenager with terminal cancer.  At a Support Group she meets Augustus, and the pair fall in love.

The subject matter of this novel should have made for a thoroughly depressing book from start to finish, and yet John Green has managed to weave a tale full of light and bubbling humour.  There were several bits which made me laugh out loud, and yet it is done with such good-heartedness that it is impossible to find it inappropriate.

But don’t be fooled by this humour – it is a book that will make you cry.  I have an icy chasm instead of a heart and I cried.  I’m not one to cry at books – my rationality tends to override my sentimentality (how am I supposed to read the words if there is all this water in my eyes?) but with this book, I couldn’t help it.

At one point I even said ‘F*** you, John Green’ out loud, which really should be taken as a compliment.  It is a testament to his skill as a writer that his work led me to yelling swear-words at him for making me feel all these emotions.

Even though the book starts cheerfully enough – and in fact continues to do so for the majority of the book – there is still a sense of impending tragedy in some intangible way.  The story manages to be simultaneously happy and sad, and I have no idea how he does it.

In a way, I was already predisposed to like this book.  I’m a subscriber to the ‘vlogbrothers’ youtube channel, which is run by John Green and his brother Hank, where they create and upload videos on a variety of subjects too numerous to list here.  As a result, I am a nerdfighter – a member of a ‘bizarre internet cult’ made up of ‘intellectual loners’ (thanks for that, Daily Star).  So I was already a fan of John Green, thus making it inevitable that I would love his book, right?

Well, not necessarily.  First off, I’ve talked (i.e. ranted) before about my views on having high expectations.  Secondly, this genre is very much outside of my comfort zone, there after all being no magic, mutant powers or epic battles, and the only gunfights via the characters playing video games.  I would never normally have picked up this book – and so, despite the uncharacteristic crying it induced, I am very glad that John Green makes such funny and informative videos or else I would’ve missed out on this little gem of a novel.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Brain Battle

The vague plot for Hide and See's sequel is solidifying in my head.  It's not concrete by any means but I don't think it can be until I'm actually writing it.  I've done firm chapter plans before, right at the start with a different book and have ended up having to change it halfway through because of how the story evolves organically.

On the whole, I've enjoyed this planning process, even if there have been points when I've thought of an idea, been really pleased with it, then realised a few minutes later that it is in fact complete bollocks.  I suppose it's better that I figured that before I wrote it but it can be frustrating sometimes to look at my notes and think 'how could I ever have thought that was a good idea?!'

For all that the planning process has been good, I feel like I really need to start writing now.  I'm getting that grumpiness I feel when I haven't written for a while.  The problem with this, though, is when I'm in this grumpy mood my head tells me that everything I'd write is going to be shite anyway so I might as well not bother and that I should just wallow in my unproductive mediocrity and eat a lot of chocolate.  While I do not on principle disagree with the chocolate idea, I desperately need to not listen to the voice that said it would be pointless to write anything.  Because no writing equals even more grumpiness.  And so on and so forth.

So this weekend my head is playing host to an epic battle between two sections of my brain: one that produces the words and one that says I ought to just stay in bed and watch all those recorded episodes of The Mentalist which I need to catch up on.

In other news, I'm reading John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and hope to write a review of it when I'm done.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

The Importance of Being Thoughtful

I've managed to do a little editing of the latter chapters of Hide and See, although it's far from complete.  A lot of the things I need to change are so small and nit-picky that I'm finding it difficult to motivate myself.  I'm not trying to excuse myself - I really should stop being such a child and do what I'm supposed to be doing - but that's the way it is right now.

Instead, what my brain has chosen to focus on is Book 2.  I've not started writing it yet - I have at least stuck to my resolution of not charging straight in without planning - but it's taking up a good portion of my creative process nonetheless.

So if I'm not writing, what I am doing?

I'm thinking.  Yes, that sounds very woolly, again like the child I undoubtedly am making up excuses as to why she hasn't done the set work yet (Because I was thinking, Miss).  And yet not only am I finding this process fun, it also feels very useful.

You see, I thought I had quite a lot of Book 2 roughly planned out in my head.  It turns out, however, that I've only really got a clear idea for around the first quarter of the book (if that).  I'd been focusing so much on small details and specific scenes, that I realised that I hadn't figured out the whole journey.

This is why I'm very glad I decided not to start writing until I've got a clear plan.  I don't want a repeat of Book 1.  I want my novel to be heading somewhere right from the start.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Thinking about Book Two

My ideas about my expected productivity for the rest of the Easter Holidays proved to be a little too optimistic.  While I did get on to Chapter 11 on the Friday, I ended up fighting with it for over a week.  But at last, it is done, along with Chapters 12-14, which were much more co-operative over the weekend.

So that's the first third done, though it feels like it's taken an age.  I still have a few little tweaks to do on the latter two-thirds but for the most part, this latest draft of Hide and See is done.  I should probably be getting those little tweaks done as soon as possible, but thoughts about book two just refuse to leave me alone.

There are lots of small scenes or conversations which keep popping into my head and while this is very exciting, I don't want to make the same mistake as I did when I first started Hide and See.  I just sort of charged ahead with it, not planning until I was well into the book.  This is probably why I've had to re-write the first third so extensively.  It felt so directionless because I didn't really know where I was going when I wrote it.

I've never been someone who plans a huge amount - the idea of wall-charts and massive timelines sounds appealing to me but I'd never have the patience to do it properly.  All I ever do it start off with an approximate flow-chart of the plot, then divide it up into chapters in a table.  This, of course, changes several times before I finish the first draft (usually due to my inability to stop waffling), but it does at least provide a loose framework to go with.

My new-book-resolution is therefore to plan from the beginning.  To get that vague plot in my head and down on paper before I sit down to write book two properly.  I'll keep jotting down those snippets of action and dialogue, but Chapter 1 can't start until I know where it's going.

That's what I'm telling myself anyway.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The Magicians' Guild by Trudi Canavan

I had high hopes for Trudi Canavan's The Magicians' Guild (the first in the Black Magician trilogy).  I'd read the prequel (actually written after) last August on holiday and was very impressed with it.  In face, my reaction on reading the first page was more like a sigh of relief.  The excellent standard of writing felt frankly glorious after months of reading increasingly tedious, clichéd-filled Primary World fantasy novels for my dissertation.

But it is a dangerous thing, I think, to start a new book and expect great things.  This may sound very pessimistic but, hey, I reckon pessimism's great: you're either always right or pleasantly surprised!

Fortunately, my rare flash of optimistic expectation was not regretted.  Right from the first sentence, Canavan's way with words was just as delightful as I'd remembered and there were times when I really didn't want to put the book down.  This was despite the fact that I was at the time sightseeing in Somerset and really should have been concentrating on other things.

The story follows Sonea, a young girl living in the slums of the city of Imardin.  In a moment of anger against the upper class magicians, she uses magic herself, something neither she nor the magicians would ever have thought possible.

I liked how the story was told from multiple perspectives, particularly the contrast between Sonea and the magician Lord Rothen.  It was interesting how the same action could be interpreted in two drastically different ways according to the character's prejudices and points of view.

In my experience, most Secondary World fantasy novels tend to be plot-driven.  The Magicians' Guild, it seems to me, is not.  The development and motivations of the characters take centre stage, and the events move around them.

This is perhaps why the action felt rather slow to me.  Not that I was ever bored, but it wasn't exactly a bare-knuckle ride of daring battles and perilous quests.  In a way, it reminded me of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, in that not a great deal actually happens and yet I didn't mind because the writing was so good.  From a writer of less skill, I might have got to the end and thought 'is that it?'

Even if I hadn't known beforehand, I never would have mistaken the ending to be that of a stand-alone novel.  It doesn't end on a cliffhanger, but nonetheless screams out for a sequel.  Sonea's story has only just begun and I for one would like to see what happens next.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Writing Joy

Last week, I sorted out a fairly substantial chunk of my room.  I cleared out a couple of cupboards, got rid of a lot of stuff I didn't need (including over a dozen handbags) and managed to empty a shelf of several very dusty ornaments.  This shelf is now gloriously adorned with books, making me very happy.  There are still other cupboards and mounds of things on my floor to take care of, but I do at least feel like I've made some progress.

So, at the end of last week, I felt like I'd achieved something on that front but on my writing.... nada.  This made for a very grumpy dinosaur, frustrated at the fact that - despite not being at work - there just never seemed to be enough time to do everything.

Fortunately, last Tuesday came.  Ah, last Tuesday, how lovely you were!  I devoted the entire day to writing, and managed to produce two chapters to a standard that I am currently pretty pleased with (although will no doubt hate in a couple of months when I read it back).

I can't even begin to describe what a joy it was to be able to spend the day writing.  I came down for lunch, with the first chapter done, prancing around like a loon, on a writing-induced high, much to the bemusement of my mother.  The same thing happened at dinner, after I'd completed the second one.

I'd been feeling pretty despondent about the writing thing for the past week or so (probably down to the simple formula of 'no writing'='grumpiness') and it was such a relief to feel that happiness again.  It made me feel like this was the thing that I really wanted to do with my life.  And while I know that I'll have to have a less joy-inducing occupation at the same time (should I ever decide to actually become a grown-up), I don't think I could ever give the writing thing up.  Even if no-one wants to publish it.

I'm hoping to get another chunk done tomorrow.  I have four chapters to go (plus a little tweaking of some later bits) and then this draft will be finished!  I'm rather excited by the idea because it means I'll be able to start book two!  Yipee!

Friday, 30 March 2012

Easter holidays!

The Easter Holidays are finally here!  Hurrah!  That last twenty minutes at work really dragged today, thanks mainly to this rather stinking cold which I've managed to pick up.  Not quite so hurrah.  And I'm off to Somerset tomorrow so here's hoping it'll have miraculously cleared up by the time I wake up in the morning!

I'm not sure how much opportunity I'll have for writing while I'm in Somerset - we are only there for four days - but you never know, so I'm making sure I know which bits I'm supposed to be writing next.  I'm really looking for the rest of the holidays to be the most productive.

I've also picked a book to take along with me: The Magicians' Guild by Trudi Canavan (the first in The Black Magicians' trilogy) which I got for my birthday last year and STILL haven't got round to reading, even though I'm pretty sure it'll be very close to awesome.  I read the prequel, The Magicians' Apprentice last year in France and was very impressed.  And very appreciative of the excellent writing after several months of reading many much-less-good writing.  It got a sigh of relief.  Ah, at last - something great!

Hopefully I'll get round to reviewing it (providing I actually read it) in the not too distant future.

Right, I'm off to bed.  I'm not entirely sure whether my ramblings make any sense (do they ever?) and tonight I'm blaming it on the cold.  I'm blaming everything on the cold today.  Room's a mess.  It's the cold.  I have packed for my holiday very poorly.  It's the cold.  I've only just got round to paying my mother back for a holiday last April.  Yep, you guessed it: the cold.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Good Housekeeping submission

My submission for the Good Housekeeping competition is all sealed up in an envelope, sat on top of my handbag, waiting to go to the post office.  Having given it the same sort of obsessive checking and re-checking that I used to reserve for my uni assignments, I can now finally breathe a sigh of relief that it's done!

Providing, of course, that no major catastrophes befall the post office over the next twenty hours.  Part of me thinks that maybe I should try and get it posted before I go to Mottisfont tomorrow.  However, the more rational part of my brain points out that this isn't really practical given how much faffing it normally takes to get me out of the door in the morning.  Putting in an extra mission on the way is just asking for trouble.

And I think this competition has given me enough stress as it is.  I re-wrote the actual submission several times - or rather the first couple of pages of it.  It was, after all, my dreaded Hide and See Chapter 1, which I have whinged about in previous blog posts.  I think I'm happy with it now, although this is probably dependent on my not looking at the thing for several weeks (or months).

The synopsis, too, gave me trouble.  I'd written it to the two pages specified in the competition criteria, only to read in the small print that the entry should be double-spaced.  This led to much angsting over whether this included the synopsis or not.  Thankfully, Reb came to the rescue of my frazzled nerves and assured me that single-spaced was fine.  Hurrah!

So now it's time to get back to actually finishing this draft of the whole novel.  I have not yet completed the re-write of the first third.  I'm up to Chapter 9, and started it on my lunch break at work today.  The chance to write some fresh words - in glorious sunshine no less - was a pretty blissful experience, even though it lasted ten minutes at most.

The Easter Hols start next week (the joy of working for a college!) so hopefully I'll be able to get a good chunk of writing done.  I really want to finish this re-write soon.  Other things (book two included) have been whispering at me and needed to be written.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Bad blogger

March seems to be a bad blog-writing month for me.  In March 2011 I only wrote three blog posts - somewhat disappointing after my much more productive February.  Now, in March 2012, I have so far written only one blog post - once more rather crap in comparison to the, yep you guessed it, much more productive February.

I would like to blame something like seasonal change or bad planet alignments or something equally nonsensical for this lack-of-blogness but I doubt there's actually any reason for it.  It isn't like I've been so manically busy that I haven't had time.  I'm sure I could have found a few minutes at some point this month when I wasn't swearing furiously at malfunctioning lovefilm DVDs (that activity seeming to have taken up a good portion of March).

On the writing front I do have some things to report.  I managed to produce a chunk of my fantasy trilogy for my brother's birthday, which I enjoyed writing even if I'm fairly sure a lot of it is just waffly nonsense.  I also spent much of this weekend working on my submission and synopsis for the Good Housekeeping competition.  So my lack of blogging thankfully does not equal a complete lack of writing.

I also read Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, the second in the Hunger Games trilogy.  I've yet to decide whether to review that one because I'm not sure I can without having to spoil book one and I'd hate to do that to anyone who wants to read it.  And they should.  I seem to have accidentally persuaded a few people to read it so I figured I might as well encourage people on purpose now.

Here's hoping that I'll be able to write a couple more posts this month, regardless of whether they're just my general rantings or reviews.  I'm also hoping that the month trend isn't an actual thing - I only wrote one measly post for the whole of April 2011.  Ouch.