My nemesis and I…

January! Argh! Can anyone think of a worse month? It’s dull, boring, dreary, and so dark in the mornings. It taunts me, it hates me. And somehow, those 31 days seem to blossom into 64!

But, recently, I’ve been thinking about it more objectively. How many times have you wished you had more hours in a day, more days in a week or a month…? I actually have those extra days, this month. I have 64 of them.

So instead of wishing the month over, I’m going to embrace it. My plans for this year are:

  1. Writing a short story for an anthology
  2. Writing a second draft of a novel
  3. Re-writing a novella and stripping it back to the story I really want to tell.

I should be able to do all that, now that I have an extra month, surely?

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When outside looks like this, I really should be inside with a hot chocolate and all the left-over Christmas goodies.

What’s your favourite and worst thing about January?

#ThrowbackThursday – Where’s the Fire?

Happy New Year! I know I’ve posted more Throwback posts than any other recently, but with Christmas and New Year in the way, it just got too busy and confused. I promise that my next post will be a brand new one. In the meantime, here’s one from April 2013 – I recently reworked the WIP in question into a short story (it was originally meant to be a novel) and don’t recall this mishap at all! 

 

“Where’s the fire?”

It’s a phrase that can be used to mean What’s the hurry? of course, but today I’m going to take it literally.

Yesterday my WIP flew from my fingers onto the screen, running free and wild, as I watched my story taking shape… Until the moment one character noted that the fire had taken hold of part of the building and the firemen were retreating and regrouping.

Oops!  house-fire-2015081931-300px

What was the problem? I hadn’t even hinted at a fire in the previous 2165 words, not a plume of smoke, not a smell, not a single person pointing out that the rescue of two trapped people might be hampered by the extensive heat.

How had I missed something so vital? Erm, I don’t know. I was working from handwritten and typewritten versions, trying to merge them into something slightly different, and this fact kind of got missed off. In another part of the story that I’ve already written, a character mentions that even two days later the smell is still lingering, so you’d have thought I’d have remembered that at least! Except, I wrote that part of the story last week, so maybe not.

My choices are to delete what I’ve got and start again, or slide the fire into the scenes I’ve already written. I’m going to go with the second option, mostly because this is a first-and-a-half draft, and I know it will bear no resemblance to the final section anyway. I am in awe of people who edit as they go and have publishable work at the point they move on the next chapter. Me? No…

When I was at school, I loved technical drawing. If anyone has ever done it, you’ll know you start of with a lot of pencil marks and the page looks like a complete mess of unintelligible lines. Then you flourish your 0.5 black liner and slowly, out of the jumble of pencil, comes a shape that makes sense – a 3D box or, more advanced, the floor plans of a house. That’s what my writing is like, a jumbled mess until ta da!!

So, yes, today I will be squeezing a fire into my chapter, and shattering the zen-like calmness my characters have chosen to adopt!

What mistakes have you made when you’ve been writing?
Have you ever made glaring omissions?

Goodbye 2016

Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear.

It’s not been a good year, has it?

I’m not going to mention politics. I try to avoid that topic as much as possible on my social media accounts. I have beliefs about what went right and wrong this year, but I also respect that other people might have opposing views. In the event of confrontation, I walk away.

The non-political things that affected me this year were the deaths of so many of the celebrities I’ve grown up with.

Here are a few that really made me sad:

  • David Bowie – I saw him in concert a long time ago. It was the Earthling tour, where he’d said he would sing any of his previous songs. But, in the encore, he sang several – including Under Pressure, which is one of my favourites. I was so happy.
  • Alan Rickman – the man with the most incredible voice. Colonel Brandon, Metatron, Harry (can you name this film?), and of course, Snape.
  • Terry Wogan – the sarcastic voice of Eurovision and the host of Children in Need. When I twelve or thirteen, part of my writing dream was to appear on his evening chat show to talk about my latest best seller.
  • Ronnie Corbett – I grew up with The Two Ronnies on the telly, the background to Sunday evenings for many years.
  • Victoria Wood – a Northern lass, a great comedian, and writer of one of the best sit-coms ever, dinnerladies.

I suppose, though, they’re never truly gone. I’ll be able to listen to their albums and watch their films and TV programmes far into the future. And, at some point, I may be able to do so without a tear in my eye.

Updated: I wrote this post on 23 December – since then, I’ve updated three times as  Carrie Fisher had a heart attack, and subsequently died, and Rick Parfitt and George Michael have both gone too. My childhood was filled with every single person I’ve mentioned in this post, I have such strong memories linked to them all. To be honest, I’m struggling right now – I suppose this is part of why I’m a writer, it helps me make sense of the nonsensical…

Okay, deep breath… here’s some happier stuff…

In a year such as this, I think it’s important to remember the simple things, those small good things that happened which, in another year, are the things that might pass by completely unnoticed or taken for granted.

It was a warm, dry summer this year. I wore sandals for months, I didn’t have to wear a jacket or carry an umbrella apart from a few rare days, and I got a tan on my feet (but not my legs, they refuse!)

wp_20150616_11_04_46_proSome people won’t remember it – they tend to only recall the bad weather, whereas I make sure I appreciate the good. If you ever watch me walking my dog, I’m often staring across the river or up into the beautiful clear sky.

We bought new garden furniture and spent a lot of time using it – eating outside, writing, barbecues. We’d spent the previous year demolishing a garage, building a wall and laying new paving slabs, so it was great to not have anything to do but enjoy it.

We went to the beach, to the moors. On evenings when I was working, I walked home with the sun on my back. We visited the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff, my sister had a baby, my eldest grew taller than me, and my vignette collection, You. I. Us., was published.

 

I wish you all a very happy New Year. I’m thankful 2016 is finally over, and hope to make 2017 fantastic!

What are you looking forward to in 2017?

Has 2016 affected you?  Or did you have a good year?

 

happy-new-year-2017

 

#ThrowbackThursday – “So, what do you write?”

Today’s Throwback Thursday post comes from August 2010 (before my first book was published) and – like many of my early posts – didn’t have any comments. In fact, it barely had any readers, which is why I wanted to install this feature – as a writer, it hurts when people don’t read what I’ve written. I don’t necessarily want everyone to like what I’ve written, just to read it. Anyway, here’s the post…

 

“So, what do you write?”

I hate that question.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t wander up to random people in the street and say, “I’m a writer, don’t you know?”, but sometimes it comes up in conversation that I like to write. Usually it’s because the question has already been, “What do you do?”, and when I tell people that I work part-time (14 hours per week), they wonder – aloud and incredulously – what I do with the rest of my time. And I feel compelled to tell them that I write.

aj-books-2-300pxThen the question is, “So, what do you write?”

They ask probably because it’s expected, to show an interest, and that’s great. I’m not knocking the question. I’m knocking my reply… which is always, “Er… stories, modern stuff, um… just stuff…. er, I like to have a few murders.”

“So, you write crime?”

“Er, no… it’s…”

I admit that I’m not very articulate for a writer. These poor people turn away at this point, mentally patting my head and saying, “Well, good for you.”

The reason I’m thinking about this question this morning is that last week I wrote the word surreal on this blog [my previous blog] and the more I’ve thought about it, the more that seems to sum up my work. It’s also a word that defies further explanation, so from now on that will be my answer!

Since 2010, I’ve settled on the tag of Contemporary Stories with a Hint of Paranormal. Of course, then I started writing stories that weren’t paranormal. So, I may have to go back to the drawing board again!

 

Do you struggle with this question?

Are you a genre writer? Does that make it easier to explain?

#ThrowbackThursday – Un-Studying Literature

Today’s Throwback Thursday post comes from the 2012 Blogging From A – Z Challenge, an annual blogging challenge that happens in April. If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s a great way to get out of your blogging comfort zone, and perhaps find some fantastic new bloggers. About now is a great time to think about topics and start to prepare. I don’t take part every year – I haven’t decided about 2017 yet.

About three days into my English Literature A Level, I realised I shouldn’t be on the course, because that was the time I realised literature shouldn’t be studied, it should be enjoyed.

I know… that’s a mind-bending statement, isn’t it? Well, no – not unless you’re an English teacher.

Think about the writers we study:

  • Shakespeare
  • The Brontes
  • Thomas Hardy
  • Charles Dickens
  • Wordsworth

What do all these writers have in common? They were all popular writers. They weren’t writing high literature – that’s the mantel we’ve placed them on. They were writing prose that the common man in the street, at the time they were writing, would find enjoyable. They probably didn’t place too much store on the symbolism and metaphors used. They just wrote, the same way you and I do, telling their story in the most effective way.

What I’d love to say to my English teacher is:

We shouldn’t be doing this. We should be enjoying the books the way they were intended. We should think about the themes, embrace the story, perhaps even consider the moment in history they are portraying. What better way to understand history than through the eyes of people who lived in it – these authors had important things to say about the world they were living in. They don’t deserve to have their prose broken down into blocks of text for 18 year olds to pour over in sticky school halls, extracting every last significance out of every last full stop and semi-colon. Sometimes, Mr English Teacher, Sir, I’m sure they chose to describe the sky as cloudy because it just was, not to foretell something terrible in a hundred pages time!

My English teacher is currently a member of the gym where I work. I could quite easily walk up to him while he’s a captive audience on the rowing machine tomorrow and say all of that to him.

You’ll probably be quite glad to hear I won’t. I’ll leave him to enjoy his workout.

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This is my last post before Christmas, so I’d like to wish you Merry Christmas.

Slowing down

At this time of year, I slow down. It’s not planned, but when the sun barely breaks out from behind dense cloud and natural light is therefore hard to come by, I just want to curl up and hibernate.

Walking the dog helps, especially when I’ve got this nature reserve on my doorstep. The silence is fantastic for working through any writing problems I’ve got.

Note: that’s not a sunset, it was taken at about 2:30pm!

 

Revising with Rebecca Bradley

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Today, I am over on Rebecca Bradley’s blog discussing my revision process – discover what state my NaNo novel is in right now and what I’m currently drinking!

A couple of years ago, I shared my first draft process, so it was great to be able to explain my next stage. Writing down exactly how I write is quite eye-opening. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone shares my methods!