It’s a New Day

Last year was fantastic. I got to work at Penguin Random House for several weeks, visited London a fair few times (I saw Les Miserables on stage! It was amazing!) and even got offered a place on the Writing for Young People course at Bath Spa University. Needless to say, I accepted, and it’s brilliant.

It feels so good to be writing again.

I may be a little late on this, but 2016 wasn’t without its downfalls. It was a really hard year. really hard year. Because, yes, I hit snags, made mistakes, did some ridiculous things and, by the end of the year, 2016 came tumbling down on me hard. I really struggled to get back up.

And I’m still paying for my mistakes.

But now, I’m writing again, and – look! – I’m actually blogging again! It feels amazing. I finally feel like I’m back up where I need to be. I had a bath earlier and spent the entire time doodling in my notebook about novel structures and fresh scenes for my manuscript in progress.

Because all 2017 boils down to is this:

I really want this year to be good. I really want this year to be successful. I am willing to work hard.

If we believe life can be good, then surely it will be. Right?

Well, here’s to living in hope. Keep chasing your dreams.

 

 

 

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Personal Review: Always With Love

I read Giovanna Fletcher’s fantastic book Always With Love in just two days. If the book charts are anything to go by, you should read it too. Because it’s sweet, fun and flat out adorable.

This is a personal blog, so I’m going to write a personal review. There’s really no denying Giovanna is a brilliant writer, with her books storming the charts always landing at No. 1 and huge queues for book signings that lead straight out the doors. She’s a lovely lady and it shows in her blog posts, Youtube videos and social media. I kind of love her and everything she does.

But, for me, this book was too much. Far too much.

Reading it from my point of view, about a young couple buckling under the weight of a long distance relationship, was hard. Really hard. Because I’ve experienced it and we failed.

As much as I was taken in by the characters and the dreamy chiclit settings, I found myself comparing – and, I admit, painfully recognising – the scenarios that happened to the characters in each chapter and I didn’t see it going well.

From the sweet long distance phone calls between Billy and Sophie right down to the disappointment they felt when they finally saw each other again, only to find it’s not the same as it used to be. Things changed. I recognised it all.

Reading over those same situations, the same scenarios and even the same damn conversations between Sophie and Billy, was heartbreaking. Because they all mimicked my own.

So, okay, my first love wasn’t a huge movie star but he might as well have been. He shone whenever he walked into a room and he never failed to catch people’s attention. Like Sophie, I always felt plain, shy and boring in comparison standing next to him. He shined so bright. I found comfort in my hometown, my family and the places where I grew up, which I never wanted to leave. He had far more ambition and gradually taught me to have some too.

I want to be honest, because I feel like I haven’t been in a really long time and I miss it.

While Giovanna’s book ended as you’d expect in a romance – all happy and giddy with the promise of a future together, and in love – I was left disappointed. Because I recognised all those signs of impending doom throughout the book and neither of the characters acknowledged them.

I felt like, even if they realised deep down that they weren’t meant to be together, they wouldn’t admit it straight away because they were holding onto each other until the next hurdle came along. And it will.

Because they were different people, world’s apart and wanting different things. I guess pretty much everyone can relate to that.

I guess I was expecting them to split up, but this is fiction and, at that, it’s romantic fiction. I imagine Gi would’ve left many fans disappointed if the story ended there, unhappy and broken apart.

Me, on the other hand, I’m still here, trying to recover after a dazzling and heartbreaking read.

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Telling Myself: A Break is Okay

I promised myself I would do Camp NaNoWriMo this month and, although I’ve almost reached my personal word count goal, it hasn’t really felt like enough. I haven’t been writing every day. I haven’t been pouring coffee down my throat in order to JUST WRITE. I haven’t been locking myself in my room and writing for hours on end.

In short, it feels like I haven’t been focused enough.

But I have been thinking about my characters all the time. And this, I’m telling myself, is okay.

Even though I may not have been writing, it’s all still been there, just bubbling under the surface, working itself into something more tangible and detailed so when I come back to it I’m ready.

So I’ve been doing other things.

In my spare time, I’ve been going to literary festivals, doing fun writing workshops with other people I’ve never met before, meeting amazing authors like Liz Kessler, Anna McKerrow, Lu Hersey and Lisa Glass and even picking their brains about their own writing process when they write their novels.

Meeting Lu Hersey, Anna McKerrow and Lisa Glass

I’ve been taking long walks and sitting in the sunshine reading books and laughing with friends. I’ve also driven up and down the countryside in a couple of days so I could have an interview for a masters degree in writing.

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So I haven’t been writing my own novel per se, but I’ve been doing other things that count towards it. I know this might sound lazy, like I’m even making excuses, but in my eyes it’s not.

Because I’m realising it’s okay to take breaks. It’s okay to step away from your project for a little while, if only so you can see it a little clearer when you do get back to it again. It’s okay not to achieve ridiculous word count goals you might set yourself for the month, as long as you’ve written something.

Breaks are important. Just make sure you get back to your project.

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Because you might find something truly amazing by procrastinating.

Camp NaNoWriMo: Figuring it Out

So I’m doing Camp NaNoWriMo and it’s all going fairly well. But as I kept going and going, writing and writing, I  realised I didn’t feel comfortable writing about characters who I didn’t actually know that much about.

Normally, I tend to start writing and my characters develop more and more as I write them. I love doing that, mostly because it means minimal work, also because I can just get right into the story without having to do loads of background research.

But, unfortunately, that just wasn’t going to cut it this time and, as my word count got further and further towards reaching my ultimate goal, I became less and less confident with this project and these characters.

Now, I love my premise and I love my idea. But I needed more than that. I turned to the Writing Resources on the Camp NaNoWriMo wesite and – tah-dah! – I found everything I needed. It has all sorts of tips and advice on how to implement your characters and get to know them better before you start writing.

You can see it here.

Now, usually, I hate this kind of stuff but, right now, I am actually loving it. As lame as this sounds, I’ve conducted interviews with my characters, written and planned out their entire back story and where they will all go in life even after the novel has finished (yes, some of them die). I’ve discovered things about them I didn’t even realise and, more than anything, I feel like I know their place in this novel a lot better than I did before.

What surprised me most is that I’ve developed new plot points.

I still need to keep going with this. I am in no way done. I’m writing the actual project alongside the planning stuff, so it is all still a bit wobbly.

But, hey, at least I’m getting things done – which is more than I was before. Reading all the inspiring blog posts about what people are doing this month – and how they’re managing it – is really prompting me to kick my ass into gear.

It’s a Monday, it’s 8am, and I’ve already written almost 1,000 words today. I definitely think this is progress. I know I just have to keep going, which is the hard part.

Laters.

Camp NaNoWriMo: Word Count Goals

Howdy, everyone.

Last night marked the first night of Camp NaNoWriMo this April and I stayed up well past 4am. This wasn’t even because I was stressing about the word count – I’ve successfully made it to just over 4,000 words (don’t fret, I didn’t do this all in one night!). It was because the excitement was too much.

I didn’t want to go to sleep. Not when there were writers all over social media spurring us all on – Twitter, Facebook, cabins – we were practically everywhere! And of course not forgetting that last night’s Virtual Write In was awesome, I think we’re off to a great start. I cannot wait to see how this April goes.

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Turns out that when you shut your brain OFF during editing mode and just concentrate on writing (amen to word sprints!) then writing comes to you a lot easier. A LOT easier. Even if half of what I’ve written so far is fairly awful and I eventually end up scrapping it, at least I have the foundations of something to grab onto, something to build on. I’m telling myself this is okay.

I pan to *hopefully* double my word count from last night today. Because how amazing would that be?

Unfortunately, my cabin is a little quiet and not as active as some folks’ in the last 24 hours, but I’m hoping that will pick up as we get going!

Right now, I’m going to have a shower, brew a cup of tea and eat some writing fuel for the day (most likely porridge). Then I’ll sit down and crack on with a bit more writing in between other bits like working from home and feeding my cats.

So if you’re doing Camp NaNo too, then good luck and please do let me know what you’re working on! I’d love to hear what everyone’s writing, whether it’s short stories, novel, poetry or scriptwriting, etc. Or if you’ve just stumbled across this blog post and have absolutely zero knowledge of what I’m talking about then, also, let me know. I’ll try and explain.

Happy writing!

Camp NaNoWriMo: Virtual Write In!

Howdy, y’all.

I’ve spent the day being out and about and busy. So I never got the chance to write!

I totally wasn’t reading Atonement and falling asleep in the back of my car somewhere near the sea at all.

But there’s a virtual write in coming up in approximately 20 minutes and I’m so excited. It feels like years since I took part in my last one, which was only in November and I’m really looking forward to it.

For those of you who don’t know already, a virtual write in is where us campers get together and see how much we can write within an hour, using word prompts and story scenarios to get started – I find this especially helpful if I’ve got a nasty case of writer’s block! They’re also hosted by the lovely NaNoWriMo team and you can catch it here –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53TUk1JRMWs

The countdown has already started!

If you’re new to Camp NaNoWriMo, or you just want to pop in and say hello, then feel free to come and join us. We’re a friendly bunch, honest.

Let me know if you’ll be joining!

Country Music, Writing Goals, and Camp NaNoWriMo

Today I spent some time shopping. Surprisingly, no – I didn’t buy any books! Instead, I bought some clothes and – wait for it – a Blake Shelton CD. Because no shopping trip is complete without a little country music.

I legitimately can’t seem to go into a HMV store without buying country music nowadays. I think I have a problem, but the ACM’s are only a week away so I consider it preparation, not that I really need it. Country music is always on my brain. I love it so much it’s a part of my dissertation and I’ve lost count how many books I’ve got stacked up against my desk on the subject.

Okay, maybe I do have a problem.

But today was a good day. I actually felt fresh for a change. You know that feeling when you don’t get out of the house for days and you just need to get out? I felt like stale pizza – isn’t that a nice image. I just needed OUT, so today helped with that. Some quality time with your sister, new clothes and good music is just the solution.

And because I feel fresh, now I can concentrate on writing for the evening. I promised myself I would write 1,000 words of my novel in prep for Camp NaNoWriMo tonight and – BOOM – in the car earlier I got some inspiration for the next few scenes. I was listening to Luke Bryan, so I’m guessing I’ve got him to thank for that. Word count, here I come!

Thanks, Luke.

I’ve got Cornish Story Magazine stuff to work on later – (like I said in my last post, we are always looking for new submissions on interesting topics, so get in touch if you think you could offer us something!)

It’s looking like a good evening.