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.

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Writing About The South

 

Right now I’m writing at university because it’s warmer than being in my house. This is a legitimate reason. I am not kidding. But writing on campus can be fun because:

  1. There are no distractions
  2. It’s a working environment (so I actually feel like I should be doing something instead of tweeting.)
  3. It’s really quiet here right now because it’s evening!

So I’ve set myself a deadline. By the end of tonight, as in midnight, I will have written 1000 words to the opening of my new novel-in-progress which is – ta dah! – all about the Deep South … as in Texas.

Because I love it.

This new novel is a project of mine which I have been striving towards since the very first year of my degree. I’ve been holding off until now to write about it and now it’s here it’s kind of terrifying. The novel project is a part of my dissertation, which is all about the Deep South and the ideology of the cowboy as a romance figure in literature.

So my novel is a cowboy romance set in Texas. *unbelievably happy about this*

I’m writing different beginnings to the novel so far and I’m going to keep writing until I hit the one which I know is right. So far, I have four different openings. I think I know which one I love best, but I know it’s not quite there yet. More work needs to be done!

But, like Hemingway famously said, “the first draft of anything is shit.”

I think I always come back to that piece of advice when I’m writing a first draft and finding it hard. Because if you can’t have faith in Hemingway as a writer, then who else are you going to believe in?

For research, I’ve been reading snippets of DEEP SOUTH by the wonderful travel writer Paul Theroux which came out late last year. (I don’t know how many times I stroked it in bookshops before actually buying it. Sorry Waterstones.)

I read this book in the sunshine today and it was bliss. I’ll probably write a raving reveiw of this book once I’ve finished it but I’ll tell you right now that this book is amazing. It really gets you into the mindset of the South and opens up a world perhaps not so explored in travel writing. It’s a world of vivid colour and backroads and thrift stores located on old highways, where “the past is never dead” and where “poverty is well dressed in churches, and everyone is approachable”.

It’s a world I can’t wait to get into and one which I find hugely inspiring (hence the idea for the novel). I’ve always loved the South ever since I was first pulled into country music.

So today I pored over its pages, ready with a bright pink marker pen to highlight certain passages, and fell a little bit in love with it all. So tonight, I aim to write about it. Or at least develop some ideas about it which I can one day turn into fiction.

I’ll try and keep you updated on how it goes along as I try and figure it out.

In the meantime, it’s back to writing!

Writing Monday!

Today I got to do something amazing. I got to sit in writing workshops with bestselling (and famous) novelist Emily Barr.

Quickly upon meeting her, I found out she was lovely. Like a ‘I’m really interested in who you are and what you do’ kind of lovely and this made her workshop so engaging and effortless the entire way through. (It was three hours long).

First we did some writing exercises, like trying to write a short story with every consecutive word of the alphabet – in order. I won’t lie, it was tough. And mine was a load of nonsense compared to everybody else’s.

Currently, there are twelve of us who are participating in the writing workshops which are running for a few weeks! Do I even need to tell you I’m excited?? Being in a room with so many sophisticated and talented writers is really humbling and kind of like magic once you’re in the room with them. They make you want to be better. They want to make you try harder. I’m really lucky to not only be with Emily Barr – an actual novelist – but also everyone else too, because they’re all talented.

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I’m so incredibly looking forward to seeing how these few weeks pan out. It’s the last year of my degree, the last chance for me to do something like this. I’m going to count every second because I don’t want it to be over. Next week we’re looking at setting and how it matters in fiction/writing!

Excited!!

In other news, my friend got me a new vintage night gown today (she knows I love them and already have like three already). It has ruffles and IT’S PINK! I’ll even leave you a picture of it.

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Anyway, until next time! I have to pop out to get some washing up liquid …

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Goodbye London!

It’s officially my last day in London! Tomorrow I’ll pack up and leave early in the morning to drive back down to Cornwall,  where there’s an abundance of tractors, pasties and wide open spaces. Yay!

But I won’t lie – London has been an amazing experience I won’t forget and I can’t believe that, before now, I spent most of my life absolutely terrified of it! I was shocked when everybody (well, most people) were so friendly towards me and you don’t get mugged in the streets every two seconds like I thought.

Okay, yes, I was a little naive.

But, now I’ve done it, it feels incredible to have stood in a crowd amongst London streets, seeing sights that people have seen a million times over THROUGHOUT HISTORY and to miraculously be less than a few minutes away from Oxford Street.

Now, sadly, I haven’t been able to take many photographs, 1) because I have zero memory left in my phone (stupid me) and 2) I haven’t really had the chance as I’ve been inside a building most of the time!

But that building is Penguin Random House. So, of course, this makes it all okay!

(*Credit to Carrie WishWishWish)

I still can’t really wrap my head around the fact that I got to do work experience at Penguin for two weeks. It’s incredible and I learnt so much.

I dreamed for so long of walking through those doors of Penguin HQ – either to work there or as signed author and, now, one of those things has come true! Even if it was only temporarily.

Maybe the next one will come true at some point in the future. *Fingers crossed.*

It’s been amazing.

I’ve had the pleasure of watching London go from a pitch black canvas of darkness in the sky at the end of every day to slowly lightening up into shades of inky blue and lighter indigo’s as time hurried on by. As I was heading towards Charing Cross station I could never help but smile at this! Because it meant – tah-da! – that spring is actually – finally -on its way!

And when I think of spring, I think of beach. And when I think of beach, I think of home. I honestly can’t wait to roll around in the sand, even if it’s freezing when I get there.

Yes, I’ve missed home.

So, my last day in London will mark perusing book shop shelves and darting into fancy shops I wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to go in. Also eating sushi for lunch, just because I can.

I’ve enjoyed my time here an insane amount – and read roughly four books since I’ve been here (thank you train journeys) – but now it’s time to go home and snuggle with my cats. I’ve missed them loads.

*Happy smiles.

 

 

I’m in London!

That’s right. I’m in London, fellow humans.

(Cue a giant double decker red bus and a pretty image of Big Ben next to the River Thames if I had one.)

Credit goes to whoever took this photo.

Because I like to update my blog on writerly news and how my current lifestyle around books is going (with a few updates on my cat) I’m thrilled to announce that the reason I’m staying in London is because *drum roll please* I managed to get work experience with Penguin Random House!!

I still can’t really believe it.

Honestly, I am beyond pleased and so, so happy. I have been working towards getting work experience with any of the top publishing houses for so long! I truly never thought it would happen. Being surrounded by books everyday and top publishers is like a dream and, even though I’m not getting a permanent full-time job in publishing right away, I kind of feel like I’ve made it somehow. Already. I know. Don’t hold your breath, right?

*please let me get somewhere in publishing one day in the foreseeable future.

London is very different from Cornwall. For one thing, there’s no sunsets amid a huge blue wavering line of sea and countryside to close the day. For another thing, everybody walks at about a gazillion miles an hour and, also, people don’t care if they shove you at a station during rush hour. I found this out just today.

I’m here for another week or so and I’ll definitely be updating you by the time we roll on into next week. I’ve missed blogging. And I’m going to start afresh with a little more publishing knowledge in tow.

In the meantime, check out the publication I semi-run all about Cornwall. It has pretty pictures, I swear! You can click on it here: www.cornishstory.com

Have a nice night wherever you are in the world.

 

This summer I’ve almost written an entire novel

Ever had so many ideas for stories in your head that you feel like you might just explode?

I have but it was mostly when I was teen. Lately, I’ve been picking up the pace a bit more and it feels amazing for my creative head space.

So far, I’ve had three novel ideas. That is, for young adult fiction – the market I desperately want be in. I’ve had a couple of ideas for a sci-fi novel or two as well. But these require a lot of research and I’m not sure my brain’s cut out for all that right now. I’m thinking perhaps in my late twenties is when I’ll hit my sci-fi writing stride. A lot of my ideas involve space travel, time travel and if I’m really indulgent then a little bit of dinosaurs too. But I’ll save that for another time.

Anyway, I’m getting off topic.

So, like any writer does, I scribble these ideas down. I have an abundance of notebooks. And these tiny put-away-like-they’re-nothing ideas that might someday turn into something I keep hold of. You never know. One day these put away thoughts might well hold the key to my success.

I’m writing a novel right now – a Y/A one which I actually and genuinely love. I think, for a little while, I forgot what it could be like to let yourself get lost in fiction and how it feels for a project or a story to completely engulf your own world, for it to be all you think about.

I’m ashamed to admit it but as I got older I lost that creative bubble I used to never peep out of. I thought this was normal. I slowly became focused on the editorial side of writing that my fiction world consequently never even got past page 20 because I would slam it so hard it couldn’t fight hard enough to breathe. I was, to use a cliche, my own very worst critic.

I was beyond brutal with my own writing.

But this summer I’ve conquered that bad habit. I’ve been writing. (Ergo, sorry for the lack of posts). I’ve been getting lost in my own fiction world and I’ve almost successfully written an entire novel over the course of this long, hot and notoriously beautiful summer. (I live in Cornwall, so almost every day is beautiful here, yay!)

(A view from just over the road where I live)

I even signed up as a camper at Camp NaNoWriMo and even though I always seem to do this and it never usually gets me very far, this time I stuck at it and I completed my goal of writing over 10,000 words in a month. I can’t tell you the joy I got over achieving that goal.

For me, it was pretty phenomenal. So I’m carrying on with it.

You ever read a book and think, ‘I could’ve done better than that’? Well, it turns out that I’m doing it, even if only just to say that I’ve written a complete novel.

I don’t want to be someone who waits until their retirement to get everything out onto the page. I want it now.

I know that when I’ve finished, that’s when the hard part really begins which is the editing process. Apparently, this is where a lot of the real writing gets done, to quote the theory books and all the other famous writers out there.

But I’m moving forward. I’m at just over 46,000 words so far and I’m probably not going to stop until I hit 80,000 which is the average length of a complete novel. As well as that, I’ve also found the time to submit to other writing competitions. I’ve hit a productive writing/creative streak and it’s not stopping.

My thoughts in general are that this summer has been a blessing. But in the end, I know, it all comes down to yourself.
Your motivation.
And whether you believe in yourself to do it.
And maybe if you can’t, then find someone else who does. Ride their motivational current to get yourself where you need to be.

You never know, it might be worth it in the end.

So, be right back. I’m novel writing.

Book Signings!

Last night I met Sarah Winman, author of bestselling novel When God Was a Rabbit and the recently published A Year of Marvellous Ways. The first time I read When God Was a Rabbit I was mesmerised and immeasurably hooked. I loved it so much I even cracked the spine a little bit (something I rarely ever do with books).

So I’m certain that A Year of Marvellous Ways will hold just as much magic for me as Rabbitdid, if not more.

To meet an author – published, famous, and successful – always washes a tidal wave of excitement over me. And, of course, last night was no different on the crowded shop floor of Waterstones, Truro, the tiny capital city of sunnyside Cornwall. There was an informal interview between Sarah and a lovely employee of the iconic bookstore which weaved the stories of Sarah’s childhood memories, the people she’s known in her life and, ultimately, how the book and its characters came about.

I was captivated.

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The evening went on and, as she was talking, I became hugely gratified to discover that, when she writes a novel, she usually writes roughly 1000 words a day. This, for me, was monumental, in that while I am currently writing my own novel I also tend to write 1000 words a day.

(In no way am I comparing myself to this bonafide successful writer, but hearing those words gave me hope: it said, ‘I can do this!’)

It was truly a comfort in itself; knowing that an author like this also simply writes 1000 words a day and still gets the novel finished on time.

Because, you know, when you aspire to be a full time writer yourself, you always imagine bestselling authors to be hammering out 5000 words a day or more, scribbling page after page after page.

She read clearly and calmly, with just the right emphasis on the right characters when speaking their own dialogue. Her words written on the page and then spoken from her own mouth were entrancing and not even for one second did I actually find myself bored.

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To my joy, she signed my copy of her book which is now sitting on my shelf. And, not only this, but I asked her if she would sign my own journal; a notepad I use to scribble all my thoughts and story ideas in whenever I’m on the move. She complied and asked if I was a writer too. I told her yes, I was, and she listened as I spoke about my own fiction writing and the novel I’m continuing to write over the summer.

She listened.

Of course, I was in a queue so had to hurry along, but she gave me the utmost hope for my writing (not to mention a truck load of inspiration) and told me good luck with my writing adventures and said that, if I stuck to it, I could publish a book too one day (with a lot of hard work and torturous rewrites. I know.)

Everything takes a little bit of time and a whole load of patience, and most importantly, a great deal of work. As a current participant of CampNaNoWriMo, I’m mostly keeping to my word count goal of 500 words a day, if not 1000. Watching my stats go up is like watching a plant grow; it can be really, painstakingly slow, but the progress is still there and visible!

By way of word count, my goal is to have 36,000 words of my novel by the end of the month in total. But, the way I’m going, I’m hoping I can totally beat that!!

So, ultimately, here’s to Sarah Winman – on a brilliant and captivating debut novel and what I already know to be a truly wonderful second novel in A Year of Marvellous Ways, even though I haven’t read it yet.

Here’s to inspiration.