#CharacterCharades

38 CharacterCharades

I am celebrating this week!

I have been struggling with one of the characters in my current Work In Progress, but I have finally had a break-through in his development and it has had a massive impact on the direction of my book (not to mention my mood).

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This guy (and I will get on to who it is soon) has been by far the trickiest character I have ever come up with; not because he has some sort of great and powerful lineage, but because he is just a normal bloke in the real world.

I’m a Fantasy/Sci-Fi writer for a reason!

9879559There have been times while working with this character where it has felt like I was playing charades with someone who had one hand tied behind his back. I was there making all sorts of guesses about what he was trying to put across, but nothing seemed to hit the mark. It was very frustrating.

And I figured, hey, why not make a game out of the whole thing?

So who’s up for a round of Character Charades?

The rules are below (together with my offering). I’d love to hear your take on this with your own character, so please leave your own answers in the comments below, or, better yet, share a #CharacterCharades post on you own blog/vlog/channel, whatever outlet you are using!

#CharacterCharades – The Rules

1: Name the character you have found most challenging to write. This could be someone in your current Work In Progress, or someone in a completed/published piece. If they gave you a headache at any point, I want to hear about it! Extra points if that headache was accompanied by a nosebleed.

2: Give a quick reason why this character was so challenging.

3: Using the above-named character, answer the following Charades inspired questions:

Book/Film/TV Show/Play – Give the title and a BRIEF description of the work they featured in. If it is a published piece, please don’t forget to include links to where it can be found. I’m sure we’d all like to know more. If it is a Work In Progress, link to any sites/pages where you have talked about it to any sort of length.

“The” – What is this character’s role in the story (the protagonist, the villain, the love interest, etc)? If they have a job, what is it?

Short Words – Use five words of no more than five letters each to describe this character.

Sounds Like/Doesn’t Sound Like – Can a comparison be made between your character and anyone else in popular culture? This could be another fictional character or someone who may have inspired this character’s creation. OR, is there someone that this character is the antithesis of?

One Syllable – Share one interesting fact about them.

Song – Share your favourite line of dialogue from your character.

4: Once you’re done, pick a couple of people to tag for them to participate as well. I won’t specify the number you should tag. I’ll leave that to you to decide.

And that’s it! Simple! Please feel free to be creative with this and, above all, have fun!

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So here are my own answers to get things rolling:

1: My character is Simon Locke.

2: He was particularly challenging because he is a ‘real-world’ character and I don’t tend to write those. I also found it difficult to fit him in with the rest of the story. He seemed to be on the side-lines for quite a long time (but not anymore!)

3: The questions:

Book/Film/TV Show/Play – Simon is part of my current Work in Progress, The Greenstone In The Fire; what will (eventually!) be my debut novel. I have talked about it to some extent here. To give you an overview of the book, The Greenstone In The Fire follows three completely separate characters, each living in their own world, but whose paths start to cross in unexpected ways when their lives gradually become intertwined and the boundaries between their worlds blur.

“The” – Simon Locke is The Protagonist of this story (or one of them, at least). He is a writer (I know, rule one, don’t write about writers – oops!) who quite literally loses the plot and gets lost in it at the same time.

Short Words – love, grief, twin, maybe crazy.

Sounds Like/Doesn’t Sound Like – I’m going to go with “Doesn’t Sound Like” for this one. Simon draws a lot of inspiration from Clint Eastwood in the book, but he is most definitely nothing like Eastwood himself!

One Syllable – Simon’s obsession with Westerns started at about the same time as his feelings for Naomi (i.e. as they met). It has been the main focus of his work ever since.

Song – OK, this was hard since I am going to be re-writing a lot of Simon’s part of the book but then I found… “You’re only crazy if the voices talk back, right?”

4: So, rather than tagging anyone specific, I would like to nominate anyone reading to have a go at this! As I said before, add a comment below, or post it in your own blog/vlog etc. Just don’t forget the hashtag #CharacterCharades, and if you feel like it, link back to here!

Have fun everyone!

I look forward to hearing about your troublesome characters!

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#7BooksChallenge

52 7BooksChallenge

I’ve just completed my run at the #7BooksChallenge. If you haven’t been aware of this on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, its quite a simple challenge to take part in. You simply post a picture of a book cover every day for seven days and nominate someone each day to take part. When you post, don’t add a comment or review of the book. Just post and let everyone draw their own conclusions.

Well, I’m about to break that last part because I’m going to share with you why I chose each of my seven books.

I was nominated on Saturday for this challenge by Sarah Jayne Tanner, and my first question to her was “How do I pick only seven?” There are so many amazing books that I have read over the years and that have meant something to me at different times.

I eventually narrowed my choices down the to the seven I ended up posting and here’s a rundown of my chosen seven.

Of these seven books, I have read five of them, am currently reading one, and have the last one on my To Read list.

Day 1: 1984 by George Orwell

1984This was one of the first Classic books that I read for my own pleasure. I wasn’t studying it at school or University. I just picked it up off the shelf to enjoy for myself.

Now, you mat be thinking that ‘enjoy’ is not necessarily a word you would associate with 1984, but I did. I enjoyed it in an utterly chilling and terrifying sort of way. To this day, I count it among my all-time favourite books.

Day 2: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis

NarniaIn fairness, I could have spent all seven days posting each of the Narnia books. But I limited myself to one – my favourite of the seven. One of the main reasons this is my favourite of the Narnia books is Reepicheep. How many mice (or men for that matter) do you know of that would willingly offer to engage a dragon in single combat?

Day 3: Defiance by Sarah Jayne Tanner

Sarah nominated me for this challenge and, aside from being her best friend, I am a huge fan of her work. For anyone who hasn’t heard of or read Defiance, you should! The novel follows Noah, a street fighter from the slums of a dystopian city who is kidnapped and trafficked into a programme that uses his body to fulfil the whims of the rich and powerful. Defiance is available on Amazon Kindle. Go check it out!

Defiance

Day 4: Cress by Merissa Meyer

CressAnother book taken from the middle of a series, Cress is my favourite of Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series, which takes well known fairy tales (Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White), and translates them into a futuristic, cyberpunk setting. When I first discovered the series, I read the words ‘fairy tales’ and ‘cyberpunk’ in the description and was instantly drawn in. These are fun, well written, and very clever books that take the fairy tales as a jumping off point and take them to new heights. Cress (modelled after Rapunzel) is the brilliant third instalment. I highly recommend it.

Day 5: The Body by Richard Ben Sapir

BodySo, this is the one I haven’t actually read yet, but am very much looking forward to devouring. The Body is based around an archaeological dig in Jerusalem that uncovers the body of a man who was crucified around the first century AD and whose circumstances in burial raise the question of whether he is in fact Jesus Christ, not risen from the dead as the Gospels proclaim.

If that premise seems familiar, it may be because the book was adapted into a film of the same name in 2001, starring Antonio Banderas as a priest sent by the Vatican to investigate the discovery. I absolutely love the film and can’t wait to see how it measures up to the book.

Day 6: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

HeartlessI was in two minds about posting two books from the same author, but as I struggled to choose between this and Cress on Day 4, I thought it was worth featuring Meyer twice. Heartless is an origins story for the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. I read this book last year and all the way through, I kept wondering (dreading) just how Meyer was going to reconcile her presentation of Catherine, the sweet, caring, and forward-thinking young woman, with Lewis Carroll’s original character of the Queen of Hearts – a ruthless, ill-tempered woman, prone to outbursts of “Off with his head!”

It is one of the few books I have read and felt utterly exhausted by the end.

Day 7: Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

RiversThis is my current read. I only started it a few days ago, so I’m not far into it yet, but it is a book that was recommended to me by several friends and members of my family. Everyone I talked to about gave it rave reviews and commented it was ‘right up my street’, so it seemed like the right time to delve into its pages (or whatever the Kindle equivalent is). You never know, if I like it that much, I may be adding my own review into the mix soon.

So that was my week of the #7BooksChallenge. If you haven’t participated yet, please do. It was a lot of fun and undemanding time-wise. If nothing else, leave a comment below here with what your seven books would be. I’d love to hear about them!

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Happy New(ish) Year!

51 new year

Right. So, January happened.

I don’t know about you, but I always find it hard to get going in the New Year. For me, ‘Dry January’ had nothing to do with abstaining from alcohol for 31 days, but is more to do with the fact that at this time of the year, I really struggle to put one word in front of another.

Anyway, my brain seems to be catching up with the rest of the world now, so what does 2019 have in store?

challenge-update1.jpgWell first of all, I am still very much determined to finish the first draft of my novel by June. If you missed me launching this personal challenge, you can read about it here. In October, I set the target of 4,200 words per week (600 per day) with the aim to draft my novel by the beginning of June 2019. The target date has not changed, but as I have not written anything since the middle of November, my daily/weekly target has been adjusted to compensate.

My new year challenge (I refuse to call it a resolution, as I invariably fail those) is to get through 5,000 words per week.

Wish me luck! It is likely to test my sanity!

In other news…

In fairness, I am being a little harsh on myself saying that I haven’t written anything since November. It’s true I have not worked on my novel in that time, but I did work on some short stories. As part of a Christmas Present for my family, I asked them to name their favourite fairy tale (or Disney film). At the time, I didn’t tell them why I was asking them for these. Fortunately, my family is used to me asking them random questions at odd times. I then used their answer as a jumping off point for a short story.

The stories were very well received (much to my relief), and I hope to share them on here eventually.

With that in mind, I have done a bit of re-arranging in the menu. There is a new section there for Short Stories.

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When I write short fiction, the stories tend to come in at around 2,000 words (underwriter, remember). They also tend to be more than a little bit off the wall. Take this first offering as an example.

As I have spent the majority of January procrastinating, it seemed appropriate that the first short story I share with you be the product of just that: procrastination.

I wrote this a couple of years ago on an evening when I was doing my level best to avoid writing my novel.

I am sure this is a subject that is close to the hearts of many writers. In fact, I know it is, as not a week goes by when I don’t see (and sympathise with) a post on Twitter from a fellow writer bemoaning his/her own procrastinatory* tendencies.

*Yes, this is an actual word.

It is re-assuring to know that I am not alone in this respect. This story serves as a possible answer to the question of “What if procrastinators were organised enough to form a group?”

I had quite a lot of fun imagining this particular answer, and hope it brings a smile to the faces of all you like-minded procrastinators and writers.

Just follow the link below to have a read. I am always open to any and all feedback (preferably constructive), so please take a moment to leave a comment with your thoughts.

The 29th Annual General Meeting of the Procrastinators Anonymous Society

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The Muppet Christmas Carol

50 Christmas 4

Christmas was (almost) dead to begin with. That is until Mr Dickens came along in 1843 with his tale of good will and redemption (and ghosts) that just happened to be set around December 25th.

downloadA Christmas Carol (I am sure you are aware) centres around one Mr Ebenezer Scrooge, a shrewd Victorian financier whose only love and comfort in life is money. He begins the story as an old, embittered man and wins himself no friends with his callous attitude towards the poor and needy. That is, until he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, who warns him to be more caring and charitable to those around him, otherwise he will be doomed to wander the earth after death, weighed down by chains forged by the misdeeds of his life.

Scrooge is then visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet To Come, and over the course of the novel he is confronted with the reality of the life he has made for himself.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how the story unfolds, but did you know that when A Christmas Carol was first published, it single-handedly revived the festival overnight, and helped shape it into what we know and love today?

victorianchristmastreeWell, I say “single-handedly,” but actually Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had rather a lot to do with that as well, together with the German traditions that Albert brought with him (including Christmas Trees).

My point is that without A Christmas Carol, Christmas would be celebrated a lot differently than it is now. Make of that what you will.

Certainly, my own memories of Christmases Past would be very different without it, or a version of it at least.

For a very long time (pretty much since it was released on VHS – yes, I remember that far back!) The Muppet Christmas Carol has been a part of my Christmas celebrations. It is, without a doubt, my favourite Christmas film. Ever.

the-muppet-christmas-carol-1-posterIt is one of those films that I can quote wholesale (as can my entire family), and it never fails to put a smile on my face. I have watched it every year for as long as I can remember, and intend to keep doing so for many years to come.

Believe it or not, the Muppets’ version is actually remarkably close to the original book. I read A Christmas Carol for the first time this year and was amazed at just how faithful to the book it is as a film; to the point at which I could hear Gonzo as the narrator in my head (I naturally added Rizzo’s commentary in there as well) and read each of Scrooge’s lines with Michael Caine’s voice in mind.

As the book is very short (just under 29,000 words), it lends itself well to adaptation on screen. This should not come as a surprise, given that it has been adapted more times than most people care to count. But what I like most about The Muppet Christmas Carol is that, for a family film, it does not shy away from some of the darker aspects of the original – namely the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come.

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I remember being terrified of him as a child (something about the too-long arms and large, grey hands is just plain unnerving). And I remember repeatedly shedding a tear when Belle leaves Scrooge and when Tiny Tim dies in the vision of the future Christmas.

28_midiOf course, what helps to soften some of these moments is the reaction given by Gonzo and Rizzo as the film’s narrator and chorus respectively. They offer an immediate response to what is happening that helps to re-assure younger audiences and serve as a reminder that this is, after all, a work of fiction.

If this film is not on your ‘To Watch’ list this year, then it should be! It will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you sing along. Who could ask for more in a Christmas film?

_92929928_bbc_presentsAll that is left for me to say is Happy Christmas to all! I won’t be posting next week as I will probably be too busy losing rounds of Phase 10 with my family, so Happy New Year as well. See you in January!

And so as Tiny Tim observed…

Merry Christmas, and God bless us, everyone.

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The Flint Street Nativity

49 Christmas 3

140048-cool-christmas-nativity-scene-wallpaper-1920x1200-for-tabletNativity plays are a seasonal staple in the UK. Every play group, school, nursery, church and amateur dramatic society will have at some point or another dressed everyone up as shepherds, angels, and wise men to act out the birth of Jesus. I, myself, recall being cast as an angel in a play at nursery school (yes, I know what you’re thinking – type-casting), and as Mary in a church production as a child.

With these plays being so prominent at this time of year, it is only natural for the British to stamp their own brand of humour on to them in the form of a TV film.

250px-The_Flint_Street_Nativity_DVD_coverThe Flint Street Nativity is an homage to every school Christmas play you have ever seen, or ever starred in (no matter how enthusiastically or reluctantly that may have been). It has been fairly near the top of my favourite Christmas films list for a very long time.

The film itself features a primary school class (elementary school to our American cousins) preparing to stage their own nativity play for their mums and dads (and in some cases, their social carers). It follows the children both on stage and off, and delves into the dark realms of classroom politics as friendships are strained and tested by the casting choices made by their teacher, Miss Humphries.

By the way, all of the children are played by adults and the classroom/stage sets are scaled to make the actors appear to be under four and a half feet tall, as eight-year-olds would be.

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Each of the characters is memorable in his or her own very special way. From a disgruntled Angel Gabriel who desperately wants to be Mary, to the uninterested Joseph; from the moody innkeeper with a soft spot for Mary, to the cynical shepherd who has her own clear views on the overall story.

maxresdefaultAnd who could ever forget the Wise Man with a sibilant lisp, who is tasked with presenting the baby Jesus with “Frankinthenthe”?

If you haven’t seen this film, I strongly urge you to seek out a copy. It will have you rolling about laughing and will also bring a tear to your eye for its more poignant notes.

Afterall, this is British comedy; we are known for throwing heart-wrenching moments into the middle of side-splittingly funny scenes.

I am sure that any parent or teacher will be all too familiar with most of the characters in this ensemble piece. And I am sure that this film will remain a firm favourite of mine for many years to come. There really is nothing else like it, and certainly no other Christmas film I know of that makes me laugh so much.

Well, maybe one… More on that next week.

_92929928_bbc_presentsSo, what films make you laugh at this time of year?

Leave a comment below with your favourites, or Tweet me @RachFarrimond to let me know!

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Miracle on 34th Street

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This is not a film that I watch consistently every year, but it is one that warms my heart each time it makes it way out of the DVD case. For those who have not seen this film (either the original 1947 flick, or the 1994 remake), be aware that SPOILERS will follow!

MPW-89672Miracle on 34th Street is about a cynical little girl who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, but who makes friends with a kind old man who claims to be the big man himself. At first, she is sceptical, but as he is put on trial and tasked with proving who he is, she, along with the rest of the world, starts to believe.

It is one of the few films that I actually prefer the remake to the original. Usually (to me anyway), remakes feel like they are trying desperately to live up to the original’s reputation. And nine times out of ten, they manage to fall short. They either go for a filming-by-numbers approach and spend too long trying to hit the same story beats as their predecessor; or they go too far in the opposite direction and lose the story in the process.

Miracle doesn’t do this. The 1994 film is very similar to the 1947 original, yes, but manages to offer a smile-inducing twist towards the end that lifts the whole thing in a way that the original never achieved.

This twist comes in the resolution of the Court case.

hqdefaultIn the 1947 film, the Court rules that Mr Kringle must be who he says he is because the US Postal Service redirects all of Santa’s mail to the Courthouse. There is a scene in the Post Depot in which the workers in the sorting room read about the case in the New York Times. They have a chuckle to themselves and conclude that if Santa is at the Courthouse, then they finally have somewhere to deliver all the Christmas letters that otherwise pile up in the corner; so they forward everything addressed to Santa to the Court. It is played off as a joke, but essentially leads to Mr Kringle’s exoneration when the Defence uses it to argue that if the US Postal Service say he is Santa, then it must be true.

In the 1994 remake, the film plays out pretty much in the same way right up until the Judge is about to issue his ruling in the case. At this point, there is no crate full of letters delivered. There is no sudden flash of magic from Mr Kringle, and for a moment the Judge looks very uneasy about what he is going to say next: his decision seemingly that Mr Kringle is mad and that there is in fact no Santa Claus.

But before he raises his gavel, Susan Walker (the little girl who was so serious and cynical about Christmas from the start, played beautifully here by Mara Wilson) approaches the bench and hands him a Christmas card. Inside the card is a dollar bill with some significant words circled on one side:

“In God We Trust”

igwt-34thst

He then tosses away the verdict he was about to give and explains if the US Treasury (backed by the Government and the People) can make a declaration of faith on the nation’s currency and not demand physical evidence or proof of God’s existence, then by a similar act of faith, he can declare that Santa Claus does exist and is in fact Mr Kringle.

It is the verdict that everyone in the Courtroom (apart from the prosecuting attorney – bah-humbug) was hoping for and much merriment and cheering ensues.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware that this is a rather over sentimentalised portrayal of the US Judicial system. But it’s Christmas. We’re allowed to be sentimental at Christmas.

What makes this film special to me is the fact that a Court case (something that by its very nature relies on hard evidence and irrefutable proof) is settled by an act of faith – something that can, at times, be somewhat under appreciated in our society.

Thank goodness we have Christmas films around to remind us it’s OK just to believe.

_92929928_bbc_presentsSo, what films warm your heart at this time of year? Leave a comment below with your favourites, or Tweet me @RachFarrimond to let me know!

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What’s your favourite Christmas film?

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I think it is safe to say that I am about as much a film nerd as I am a book nerd. I also just happen to be the biggest kid when it comes to Christmas.

Given that films are the whole point of Christmas (aside from the obviouschocolate), it seemed appropriate for me to put my discussion of writing to one side for a few weeks and spend some time exploring the wonders that are Christmas flicks.

So, let’s have it! What are your favourite Christmas films? If you’re anything like me, you’ll have more than one, possibly even one for each of the twelve days (I don’t have twelve favourites; don’t worry, I won’t be going on for that long about this).

Its-a-Wonderful-Life-Colorized-PosterBut before I get into some of my own favourites, I have a confession to make. This may come as a surprise (especially given the opening to this post), but I have never seen It’s a Wonderful Life – the film that is consistently cited as being one of the all-time greatest Christmas films ever.

For one reason or another, it just always seems to get dropped from my list of things to watch. Every year I say to myself that I really should get around to watching it; and every year, Christmas melts into New Year and I have put it off again.

Maybe this will be the year…

So what takes the place of It’s a Wonderful Life for me?

Well, for starters, there is this film:

MV5BMTc0MDM4MzM4Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTczNzUzMQ@@._V1_For me, this really is the reason for the season and the way that the Bible story is captured in this film is truly remarkable. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend that you do. Back in 2016, I did a Book -v- Film post about this film because there is so much packed into the film that shows more than just the traditional Nativity Tableau, but really delves into the historical and social realities that Mary and Joseph would have been subject to.

Over the years, I have developed a tradition with this film. Once I have finished my Christmas shopping (or when it is well on its way at least), I will wrap all of the presents in one sitting. This is not as easy as it may seem, as it includes my family’s custom of writing cryptic clues on the gift tags!

Yes, present giving is almost a competitive sport in House Farrimond!

I love wrapping presents. Some see it as a chore, but I look forward to it each year. Usually, I will have Christmas music playing in the background and a cup of tea next to me while I do this. When all the presents are wrapped, I will sit back and watch The Nativity Story.

And just like that, it is Christmas!

For me, there is no other film that sets me up for Christmas like this one does because, above all, it reminds me why I am celebrating.

Over the next few weeks, up until 21st December, I will share with you some other favourites. Please do share your own favourites.

Specifically, this week, what film most puts you in a Christmasy mood?

Leave a comment or Tweet me @RachFarrimond to let me know!

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Challenge Update: 1st Oct to 16th Nov

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So, at the start of October, I set myself the challenge of writing 4,200 words a week with the goal of finishing the first draft of my novel by June next year. For more details on the challenge itself, here’s the link to the post that started this madness!

40 Challenge Accepted

I am now seven weeks into this nine-month adventure and, as I have a couple of days of this week, I figured it was a good time to take stock of how it’s going.

Words, Words, Words

Well, firstly, I can report that it is going extremely well in terms of the word count. I aimed to be sitting on 27,600 words by this point. My actual court is currently:

26,340!

This is slightly behind, but not so far that it is going to be a chore to catch up.

Coming Soon…

u-g-PXL98F0For the next couple of weeks, I am hoping to increase my weekly target, in the knowledge that in December, I will want to spend more of my time with family, rather than locked away in a room on my own, while Christmas passes by without me.

Hopefully, my family feels the same, otherwise it could be a bit awkward!

As such, my target for the next three weeks will be to get 5,600 words down on paper each week. If I fall short of this, I won’t be beating myself up, but it will stand me in good stead for the Christmas period if I can do that.

More Than Words

But writing isn’t just about the word count! That may be a good way to keep track of progress (yes, I have a spreadsheet dedicated to my word count; yes, that spreadsheet includes a graph!) but it doesn’t say anything about the project itself.

abstract-blue-pattern-bright-159049In focusing so much on my book, I have actually spent a bit more time looking at its structure. I have three very different storylines to weave together and ultimately combine. What I have done over the last seven weeks or so is divide the overall plot into sections, each one culminating in an important plot point that then propels the reader into the next part.

In doing this, I have also been able to work out what each character needs to go through in each part to get them from point A to point B (and sometimes C and D as well). This has helped me a lot in terms of keeping momentum going, as I have a much clearer idea of where each scene is going, and also how it fits in with the bigger picture.

One of the biggest plot changes that I have been working with recently relates to one of the main characters, Simon. I wasn’t particularly happy with how his storyline was progressing initially. I had written a lovely guy with a heart of gold, but he really didn’t have a lot to do. After rethinking him a little, I have found I am enjoying writing his arch as much as I enjoy writing the other two. I feel I still have a little way to go before I am 100% happy with him, but I have taken several steps in the right direction over the last seven weeks, and that in itself (in my book) is worth celebrating.

Stay Tuned

One of the things that has surprised me in the last few weeks is that I have still managed to post something new on this blog each week.

I have noticed that some of my posts (particularly more recently) have been a little shorter than my usual offerings. I hope no-one feels cheated on that score, but there is only so much my brain is able to process in one go! As such, I will be taking a short break and I will not be posting anything next week.

giphy-1Having said that, I do intend to keep going and keep posting regularly on here. When I come back on 30th November (hopefully a little rested and raring to go), it will officially be the appropriate time to start talking about Christmas, which I intend to do for the entirety of December; you have been warned!

I’ll have more updates for you in the New Year in relation to this challenge but, in the meantime, feel free to drop me a line if you want to know how its going. Also, I’d love to hear how your own writing projects are going. Why not leave a comment below and tell me about your own writing adventure?

 All that’s left for me to say for now is:

Happy Reading!

I’ll see you in a couple of weeks.

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That’ll Do For A First Draft

45 First Drafts

As a writer, I want each word I put down on paper to have meaning and purpose. I want each one of them to make readers feel and think and yearn to read on. As such, there is one particular phrase that makes me cringe:

“That’ll do for now.”

“No!” I want to say in response. “That will NOT do at all. Not now. Not ever! There are at least fifty other ways I could have phrased that and each of them are better than what is currently staring at me from the page!”

Quick show of hands: Who has ever said that (or something similar) to themselves during the first draft?

For me, this mindset is what largely contributed to a long stretch of writer’s block. And it wasn’t until I gave myself the freedom to be less than perfect in my writing that I started up again. After all, I’m not perfect in any other area of my life; why should writing be any different?

Dont CompareI have read some amazing books over the years. It didn’t occur to me for a long time that these books did not spring into the world fully formed in their completed state. Someone (a writer whom I held in high regard, no doubt) spent an untold number of hours getting it down on paper and then even more time editing it – deleting whole swathes of text, swapping sentences and paragraphs, grappling over a single word until they found the perfect one.

If you’re currently struggling to get through the first draft of your project, let me tell you now you are not the only one! In fact, writers have wrestled with First Drafts for many years and have come up with countless quotes and sound bites to help others in their struggle.

Here are a few that have spoken to me along the way:

Now, usually, I would be inclined to take each of these quotes separately and give you insights into why I find them useful and how they informed my own writing.

But really, they all boil down to one thing:

First drafts are hard. They can seem daunting and challenging on their own, without the added pressure of trying to make them perfect at the same time. So, take the pressure off. There is one time when it is absolutely acceptable for a writer to say, “That’ll do for now,” and that is during the first draft stage.

Worst EverStop beating yourself up when you’re not happy with a particular sentence or passage in your first draft. Let it lie for a while. Get the rest of the draft done before you start scrutinising each line. You never know, when you do come back to it, you may find that, like wine, it has improved with age.

Remember, when it comes to your first draft, it really is better to say anything, rather than nothing.

 

 

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The Joy of Writing by Hand

Writing by Hand

These days, there are many ways to communicate the written word, so the options for writers and how they get their ideas into the real world are pretty much endless. Over the last few years, I have come across people who write direct on to their laptop. By that, I mean they type. Literally writing on your laptop would probably void the warranty.

Some are slightly more old school than that and they prefer to use a typewriter. After all, who can forget Ernest Hemingway’s immortal words;

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Others prefer the walk-and-talk approach. No, not like The West Wing. They dictate what they’re writing and then either type it up later, or use speech-to-text software. I have even heard of writers who find they are most creative when using a word processing app on their smartphone. That way, they can write wherever and whenever they want to.

There are probably countless other ways that you could think of for getting an idea down on paper (or on screen).

My way is much simpler. I write by hand. Almost exclusively.

Of course, I then type up what I have written, but primarily, my first draft is done by hand.

thinking_capI tend to think a lot clearer when I have a pen in my hand. The slow, analogue process of writing by hand makes me consider each sentence as it comes to me, while simultaneously keeping a thought on what is coming next.

And here’s why:

A piece of paper doesn’t have any other apps for me to distract myself. If I am focusing my energy on a blank piece of paper, I am much more likely to fill it than a blank computer screen than can be transformed into an internet page at the click of a button. Or worse, a game of Solitaire.

Even when I took part in NaNoWriMo last year (good luck to all taking part this year!), the 50,000 words I wrote in that month were predominantly done by hand. I filled one and a half full A4 notebooks in those 30 days alone.

Of course, the drawback at that the point came when I then had to type up each and every one of those 50,000 words as I went, in order to make use of the Verification part of the NaNoWriMo website. But that in itself is not a bad thing.

I have grown accustomed to writing by hand then typing up that particular scene or chapter while it is still fresh in my mind (before the tipping point between enthusiasm and self-doubt is reached). It is all part of my own creative process and, for the most part, it works well for me.

And it comes with a couple of hidden advantages.

isolated-old-writing-grunge-texture-background-notebook-handwriting-black-white-vintage-resource-eps-vector-88653662Firstly, it’s quite difficult for others to read over my shoulder while I write. Aside from the fact that I tend to shut myself away in my room to write, if someone were to try and read over what I had written immediately after the fact, most of the time, they wouldn’t understand a word of it! The more relaxed into writing I get, the faster my thoughts flow. The faster my thoughts flow, the faster I write and my handwriting deteriorates accordingly. I am very fortunate that I am so familiar with my own handwriting, that I know what it says, even when others don’t. Although, there have been times when even I have paused to turn the page upside down in the hopes of deciphering a word or phrase my hand has struggled to keep up with.

My mum proofreads pretty much everything I write, and I am sure she is relieved I send her typed copies and not snapshots of my notes. In case you’re wondering, she has immaculate handwriting – I don’t know how she does it!

6abd057a784cfd8fAnd secondly, have you ever heard of someone being able to hack into a handwritten notebook? Of course, this particular advantage is rather short-lived once I get it all typed up, but even then I still have the handwritten copy to go back to if something goes wrong with the electronic copy.

The Down Side

Now, you may be sat wondering a couple of things at this point:

  • Does my left hand get sore doing this? Yes. Yes it does!
  • Am I at all worried about developing RSI? Absolutely! But I know some excellent physiotherapists so, in the long run, I’ll be fine.

writerscrampI frequently come away from writing with pain in my fingers, my wrist, even as far as my elbow. My knuckles crack and complain in all weathers at times, and the noises that my hand and wrist can make when I stop to flex could make a grown man pale with nausea.

But I’m afraid that just isn’t enough to make me stop. I have found a writing method that works for me and that is really all that matters.

I will way this, though; I see cod-liver-oil tablets in my future!

How about you?

Not the cod liver oil bit. What way of writing works best for you? Leave a comment to let me know!

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NaNoWriMo 2018!

43 NaNoWriMo 2018

CinnamonCoffeeOctober is a great month! Autumn really sets in and brings with it an incredible array of colours in the trees. It brings crisp, cold mornings and short days. Cosy jumpers, warm gloves, and hot drinks spiced with cinnamon.

And for many writers, October brings with it one very important question:

To NaNo, or not to NaNo?

National Novel Writing Month (really, at this point, shouldn’t it be International Novel Writing Month?) has been running for close to two decades now. Every November, the challenge to writers is to write a novel in 30 days. This doesn’t have to be a finished novel, but means that you write something that is novel-length. 50,000 words to be exact (10,000 words over the official minimum requirement for a piece of writing to be considered a novel).

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I won’t be participating in NaNoWriMo this year. This is due to me putting in place a writing plan that I can sustain for longer than 30 days in order to concentrate on finishing the first draft of my novel (more on that in a couple of weeks’ time). But that doesn’t mean I can’t lend encouragement to those who are taking part.

DohC46YXoAMnYXnLast year, when I took part, I discovered something really wonderful about the Writing Community, and that is that it is filled with people who not only have a shared love for writing, but also a shared passion for seeing other writers do well. There were several times last November when I seriously wanted to give up. That 50,000-word milestone seemed absolutely unattainable, and it would have been so easy just to stop.

It was the encouragement of other writers that got me through these moments. These writers may not even have realised that they were such an amazing source of encouragement. They were simply sharing their own hardships and triumphs along with everyone else.

Paradoxically, I think that is what NaNoWriMo is all about: We collectively share the experience of writing 50,000 words (each) in the month of November, and yet at the end of the day we are still writing our own individual stories with no-one to help with the actual writing of it.

If that even makes sense!

Either way, it is a great month and, for me last year’s NaNo was invaluable to me for providing the focus and framework I needed to start taking my novel seriously; something that I am continuing now with a framework of my own.

For anyone who is taking part in NaNoWriMo this year, I wish you the best of luck and hope that you have as much fun as I did last year! If it is your first time setting off on this adventure, here are my top tips for getting through:

NaNoWriMo 2018 Survival Kit

1: Tell your friends and family what you are doing

homerThis isn’t just about accountability (which is important – it was a great motivator having a group of people around you to ask you the uncomfortable question of “How’s the writing going?” to actually keep you writing). But aside from that, it is likely that you will become a hermit for a month. If, like me, you have a full-time job, or any kind of demands on your time, the time you can dedicate to writing will be limited. If you’re going to commit to NaNoWriMo, it may be that there are a few social engagements that fall by the wayside for a few weeks. Explaining to your friends and family why this is, and that it is temporary, will help smooth things over no end.

2: Get comfortable!

I don’t know about you, but I find it much easier to write when I am not distracted by the fact that my back hurts, or my bum has gone numb from sitting in one position for too long. It takes time to write 1,667 words (or whatever your daily target is), so make sure you are literally in a position that will sustain you. I am most comfortable in either pyjamas or leggings, and when I can stretch out on my bed. I can be sat up if I want to be, propped up with pillows, or even lying full stretch on my stomach with pen in hand. Find out what works for you comfort-wise, and feel free to be a little indulgent in it for 30 days!

ComfortableUncomfortablePost

3: Pre-Writing Rituals

This was my daily routine during NaNoWriMo last year: I would be in work from 8:30am until 5:00pm. I would then walk home, getting in around 5:30pm. Between 6:00pm and 6:30pm, I had my dinner, and by 7:00pm I would get myself ready to write. This meant gathering the following items: my laptop for music, pen and paper (I work best when I write by hand), a cup of strong, milky coffee with one sugar, some sort of snack (usually biscuits/cookies or chocolate), and my Rubiks Cube to keep my hands busy while I think. Gathering all of those together each evening helped put me in the right frame of mind to write (and still does to this day).

4: Feed your body as well as your brain

get-with-the-rythmn.jpgSnacks are great. Meals are better! When you really getting into a writing rhythm, the last thing you want to do is to stop. But remember that no matter how well you are writing, it will likely go a lot better on a full stomach. The temptation during NaNoWriMo (I found) was to opt for junk food. Things that were ready made, or quick to prepare meant less time away from the page. But if you manage to resist this temptation and stick to a more balanced diet, you will feel better for it all around. I am no dietician, but I know how sluggish and irritable I can feel after pigging out for a day. Clocking up 30 days like that is not a good idea!

5: Also, COFFEE!!!!!!!

first-i-drink-coffee-then-i-do-the-things-2.jpgLet’s get real for a sec. When the Ancient Greeks talked about Ambrosia, the food of the gods, what they actually meant was coffee. And this is coming from someone who is usually a Tea Drinker! I feel I am betraying my Britishness to say it, but coffee is actually magical when it comes to writing. I’m sure there is some highly logical and scientific explanation as to why the caffeine in coffee seems to be so much more potent than it is in any other beverage, but really all you need to know is:

Coffee = GOOD!

DISCLAIMER: Please drink coffee responsibly! Any caffeine consumed after 8:00pm can and will keep you awake for the majority of the night. Do not over-indulge if you have a nervous disposition.

6: Don’t do it alone

783729215398OK, so writing is a solitary pursuit. This is why it is important to connect with others, particularly during NaNoWriMo. Fortunately, the Powers That Be who organise NaNo make it SUPER EASY for writers to connect with each other. Check out their website for details of writing groups that meet in your area. If, like me, you struggle to get to the meet-ups, then go for the next-best thing: Social Media. Usually, the thought of technology being used as a substitute for actual human contact is a frightful one, but during NaNoWriMo, the writing community is out in force online (as mentioned above). Twitter is particularly good for this. Look up #NaNoWriMo2018 and you’ll find hundreds of people sharing what they’re going through, and plenty more who are simply cheering you on from the sidelines (that’s where I’ll be this year). It really is extremely encouraging.

Those tips pretty much saw me through the whole of November last year. The only other thing to keep in mind is that there will be times when your body and your brain will tell you they have had enough, and you should stop. You will quickly learn the difference between everyday tiredness and full-on exhaustion. The former can be worked with. The latter cannot. When this happens, listen to what your body is telling you, and stop. There is no point in burning yourself out entirely. If you miss your target one day, remember you can catch up on another day.

boo

There is also no shame in getting to the end of the month without having written 50,000 words. The point is that you put your best effort in and for that you should be proud!

All that is left for me to say for now is:

GOOD LUCK, EVERYONE!

I, together with many others, am rooting for you! I look forward to hearing all about your adventure soon.

Journey

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