Tuesday, 25 July 2017

I have time to read again!!!

The blogging has been very thin on the ground this first half of the year, and it was already thin on the ground before that. I had to stop the TBR piles and Gut reactions, because it all got too much. I was busy trying to fill my head with things, so I could cough out a new first draft. Which I did in 9 weeks. Hurrah!

 And now it is mulling and I am ignoring it while it mulls and I shall fill my little head with other people's writings. I have just thrashed Amazon and stuffed my kindle.

 These are some of the titles that are on there. Sonya Lalli's The Arrangement releases on the 10th of August, so that'll  be added then.

You'll have to excuse the deranged layout of this post, but I genuinely seem to have no control over how my pictures turn up. I was hoping to do some kind of slick montage thing, but had forgotten that I have no technical ability whatsoever.


Monday, 22 May 2017

Writing Stuff

  I haven’t been here in a while, but please don’t take it personally. So as not to neglect the blog totally- although I know I’m do a fair job of it- I wanted to poke my head above the parapet to at least let you know that I am, honestly, busy doing wordish things.
 The story so far; 
 Story One is currently on submission with publishers - actually out there in the world, begging for attention, hoping someone out there might love it and want to give it a home. I’m trying not to think about it, as I’ve been assured that waiting is par for the course. Besides, it is absolutely out of my hands now. So this is me not thinking about it, la la la la la la lahhh…
  In the meantime I’m working on Story Two. I thought I’d be able to dive right into it, but that wasn’t the case. I dithered and procrastinated for a while. Now I think I needed the time to replenish and refill the thought banks. I did however make copious pages of scribblings in my notebook and last week I started whacking words on the page. There’s 14k banked as of Friday, which is pleasing, although who knows how many of them are any good or likely to stay. (I try not to read back straight away so they can mull and so I'm at least a little surprised when I come back to them.) I’m attempting to follow the plan I had last time of 2k words a day Mon- Friday and if I don’t make the 10k target then I have to do detention during the weekend to make up the shortfall.

What I did do before starting, amid all the note-taking (and actually many of the notes were prompted by this) was reread the "How to.." books I studied during The Great Rewrite, so as to have them in mind from the start. There’s three of them and they are, in the specific order that I read them; John Yorke’s magnificent Into the Woods, which anyone who wants to be a storyteller IN ANY FORM should read. It looks at Why stories have the structure that they do; Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering is a mechanical approach to the actual structural nuts and bolts. He’s bossy but clear about what you should know from the beginning, in order to write more efficiently and deeply; Alexandra Sokoloff’s Stealing Hollywood takes screenwriting principles and applies them to novel writing. Screenplays are generally super tight with their plotting and structures, that there’s lots to be emulated and she's also good at pointing out generic plotting traits. I’ve found them all ridiculously useful, in fact, learning from them has had me asking myself what the hell I was thinking before. I’ve told myself I won’t start any other stories EVER without rereading them first.

This one by Libbie Hawker, is another one which added itself to that pile just recently. It’s a short read (thank goodness!) and I imagine one that I’ll dip in and out of to keep myself on track. Also one I’d recommend.

   And then there are the podcasts. Maaaan, I love my podcasts... 
I think I spent a week trying to make the transition from the note-making to the bum-on-seat-and-typing stage, and flailing simply through The Fear and dealing with my Inner Critic, who can be a bitch. The podcasts have really helped. I’ve mentioned The Bestseller Experiment before, which is great for feeling part of a community and learning about publishing on the whole, but I’ve now also found The Worried Writer, where novelist Sarah Painter talks to published writers about how they write and more importantly how they deal with the worries, The Fear and the procrastination. I can’t tell you how helpful it’s been to see that every writer has this and essentially it's part of the deal. Knowing this made it easier to step over it. And having binge-listened to numerous episodes, I was finally able to overcome it or at least quell it enough to start. Have a listen. They’re both entertaining and useful, although Sarah’s voice is sometimes almost too soothing!

  The TBR pile is the bit that's failing at the moment but frankly, with kids in exams, there aren’t enough hours in the day, and something has to give. But then maybe having a chunky pile staring at me isn’t what I need at the moment and only picking up the ones that really appeal to me is more beneficial.

  So that was my update. Hope you are all well and the words are flowing for those of you who write.

Let me know how you’re doing! Chuck me your “How to” book and podcast recommendations too please.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

*Cue tumble-weedy silence" My lack of Spring '17 TBR pile.

 Given the fail of last season, I need a catch-up period. Therefore other than what was left over from the last pile, I’m not posting a new one. I will be reading- but I’m just not sure what yet, although that kindle of mine is rammed. There'll be a pile for summer though. My shirking will only last the one season.
 I’d love to hear what you have planned for your Spring reading though. 
Share please!

Friday, 24 February 2017

Winter '16 Gut Reactions

I failed!! Completely and utterly. The Winter TBR pile contained eleven books but due to The Christmas Rewrite, I managed very very little recreational reading. (I did, however, consume three writing-craft books, which took some time.)
Of the seven Christmas books listed I managed all of two. Yes, two. In a holiday. So poor.
Of the others mentioned, I managed another two. I know, I know...

Lovely Santa CP gifted me three which I leapfrogged in, because I am particularly naughty like that. They were;
I’ll be home for Christmas – CRISIS anthology (YA)
Holding up the Universe by Jennifer Niven (YA)
Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland (YA)

 Easily (the competition is small) the joint Book of the Season are Holding up the Universe and Our Chemical hearts which were top-rung YA novels. Loved them. One of them doesn’t even have a happy ending – which is tantrum territory – but get this- I didn’t mind. That’s how otherwise pleasing it was – or else I’m just growing up a bit…

 Given I read very few, there’s only a couple of other thoughts;
-          One was just too worthy, which detracted from the enjoyment.
-          I love quirky forms of storytelling and one of these had that. But the quirky form in this case made it quite hard to read, distorting the flow of the narrative, which I doubt was the desired effect. I'm verging on feeling that the form was trying to disguise an underdeveloped story. Overall it felt like a case of 'form over experience.'
 That’s it. Epic fail, but it was for good reasons, so no apologies.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Funny stuff for your ears.

Having given the focus to The Bestseller Experiment in my last post, I also wanted to give a nod to a few of the comedy podcasts that I've been listening to.

 The Guilty Feminist is a fave; comedians Sofie Hagen and Deborah Frances-White "covering topics 'all 21st century feminists agree on' while confessing their insecurities, hypocrises and fears that underlie their lofty principles."
So much of what they observe is spot on and absolutely recognisable. And so so funny.
 My dad wrote a porno, has me barking with laughter in the car, scaring other drivers, as Jamie Morton reads an erotic novel his 60 year old father has written, OUT LOUD to his friends Alice Levine and James Cooper, who critique. And they do critique; constantly, harshly and widely as it is truly awful on many many levels. (I’m claiming that one as a writing-related piece, as their deconstruction of Rocky Flintstone’s Belinda Blinked, is both hysterical and informative about the pitfalls of scene construction. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it… As an aside Belinda Blinked is actually available on Amazon. The reviews are entertainment in themselves.)

And then there is Standard Issue, which is a supplement podcast to Standard Issue e-magazine. Comedian Sarah Millican set the magazine up in response to all the women's magazines out there, with the aim of it being "for all women, and not making you feel shit about yourself." These podcasts have female comedians in conversation, covering all sorts of issues and opinions, with intelligence and humor. They chat, following me around the house, as I do my chores with my phone in my back pocket and they never fail to make me smile and laugh.

Anyone got a podcast to recommend? 

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Wrap your ears around this, writers

  I’ve got into podcasts recently. Mainly comedy and the one I’m going to rave about here. I listen to them when I’m ironing, in the bath or when I’m driving to collect the kids. (Not with the kids- some of the comedy podcasts are filthy.)

 The Bestseller Experiment is the one I want to put you onto if you have any interest in writing. Mark Stay and Mark Desvaux are aiming to write, edit, publish and market a bestseller in a year, podcasting about it each week with guests to help them along with advice. What’s more the guests are excellent; editors, writers, agents (mine!), bestsellers- both indie and traditional. The writers are top names; Maria Semple, Joanne Harris, Michael Connelly, Joe Abercrombie, Bryan Cranston and Shannon Meyer, Michelle Paver to name a few. Sarah Pinborough this last week was brilliant.

 They cover all sorts of ground which all writers, who have any aspirations to be published in whatever form, will find gold dust. And there are competitions!! Winnable prizes, like Bryan Cranston's tighty whities and signed books. Seriously, what's not to like?
 I’m thinking most of us don’t sit and listen to the wireless like they used to do – for me it’s generally music in the background,- but if you look at the way your time works, I’ll bet there'll be an hour where you can listen to this, even if you have to split it in parts. The commute? A run? The school run? Walking the dog? A bath? During the washing up? It’s definitely helping me through the ironing and I feel lots better when the hour has done double duty.
  For the duration of the Experiment, there is a free e-book available with all the nuggets of wisdom the guests have brought to the show.
Go seek this podcast - there is treasure to be found!

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Aims and Intentions

  I was listening to a writing podcast recently (more on this in a few days), and one of the two presenters, musician & dream-coach Mark Desvaux, was talking about having aspirations and goals and how writing them down makes them far more likely to happen. I might have written that wrong; writing them down doesn’t make them happen. Writing them down makes it more likely that you’ll do what’s necessary to make them happen. You know what I mean. I’m sure there was a statistic, but it escapes me.
  I’m ridiculously poor at sticking to New Year’s resolutions, so I don’t make them. (Actually that’s not true. This New Year’s Eve I distinctly remember saying “Next year, I intend to…” but by the next morning had totally forgotten what I’d said. I still can’t remember. You get the point.)
  But I have, the last few years, been writing down my writing intentions here. 
In 2014 I wanted to up my quantity and quality. No comment about the quality, but I did bat out three separate vomit-drafts. 
2015 was about doing something with them, and while abandoning one, I pulled another into some readable shape.
In 2016 the plan was to get it ready to submit which I did, in the hope of landing an agent, which I also did. Hurrah!

  Can you see why I'm buying into the writing things down idea? (Looking back at the earlier posts, I can see I got scared when things were written down. Faced with it, it felt overwhelming - or maybe I was frightened of the commitment. Not so much any more. Now it genuinely feels helpful to have an intention stated. It's something I have to hold myself to.)

So what of this year? Things have changed now, as with Agent Federica onside there’s a plan. My writing doesn't just fill the hours while the kids are at school; it has deadlines and expectations to meet, where it never did before. Effectively I have a job again and that is requiring some alterations at home. I haven’t had employment (aside from child management) for twelve years and when I did, I didn’t have four additional lives to run at the same time. I’m not used to telling the kids to go away as I don’t have time right now. It makes me feel guilty, though I know it shouldn’t. So I have a learning curve to travel this year.
 Also during this last rewrite I took myself back to school and went through some how-to books, which made me question how I’d been writing up to now. Going forward I want to be far more savvy with my plotting and structuring, from the off. Essentially, like the last three years, I want to raise my game again. I fully intend to finish this story I’m on as soon as I can (but in as long a time as it takes to be good enough), then move on to the next, while Agent Federica sends the first off into the stratosphere. Then we’ll have to see what happens as it’s out of my hands.
(Yes that is a kitten pic. Do not judge me.)
So there it is, my 2017 pledge of intention; To develop new a working practice that fits with all of us here at home and to Write smarter, write better.

What about you? What’s your plans? Write them down!