Finding my stride

Over the last three days I’ve managed to pen 3,000 words. For me this is an achievement as I’ve had some major ups and downs while writing my novel and a good day of writing a few weeks ago might be opening it up, reading a bit of it, doing a little editing and then giving up.

So, what changed? Firstly, I’ve had some very good news. I received my results and I’m pleased to say that I’ve passed the last module of the course I’ve been studying from home. Now my conditional place with my local University has become an accepted place. I’m very excited of course but oh boy am I relieved. I’d already handed in my notice at work!

After I got this news, I started looking at my novel again.

I’d like to share a few pointers that I’ve picked up from various blogs. There are some really good tips out there and not all of them are for everyone but for me, these worked.

Turn off the word count
As I’m sure we’ve all heard a million times before It’s quality not quantity that matters and to be honest I agree. I was brave and turned off my word count and I found I was pleasantly surprised.

Shorter writing intervals
I limited myself to writing for an hour before taking a break. The breaks weren’t very long but they were enough to help refresh me. There have been a couple of times where I’ve come back and been a little bit lost but a quick re-read and a little editing helped me on my way again.

It’s not something I’ve really done before. I had a rough outline of the plot and an idea of the place and time but that’s it before I launched myself at it. It only works for a short time and so I had to change tack. Before I started on the novel again I made sure to plan it out so I now have a storyboard that is 3 chapters ahead of me. I plan to keep it that way and move the storyboard along as I write.

Don’t stress the little things
It’s important to remember that writing is better than not writing. If you sit with a blank page for half an hour because you can’t find the right word to start with just put down anything – put down Woopywapper if it helps. Editing is a lengthy and agonising process so don’t try and do it until you have something on the page!

I hope these tips are helpful to others. If you have anything that helps you please add them in the comments below!

Tenses, Narration and Narrative – Decisions I don’t want to make.

As the title of this post suggests I’m doing a little editing on my novel draft. Although I haven’t done that much as far as word count goes I’ve come up against some walls and I’m now forced to make firm decisions about the structure of my writing.

First of all, the tense I am using. Currently, I am using present tense and for various reasons I think this works well with the book so far. However, I’m worried about the strain this puts on the reader, particular as the pace of the book picks up. In the past tense I can allow some movement in time which makes backstory and context much easier to slip into the main plotline. I can’t have a dreamy character who is constantly going off into his memories as it wouldn’t work, yet, the story I’m developing is vast and so backstory is essential.

Present tense has seen a rise in popularity with new authors so much so that past tense is almost considered archaic. In my opinion, past tense is preferable and I don’t consider it to be out-of-touch. I don’t mind reading a book in present tense but it needs to be the right kind of book. I find it frustrating when I see that more books are being written and published in the wrong tense but the debate for this rages wide across the internet and is not really for me to add to right now.

Alongside this, I have been writing in first person and to be honest, first person and present tense writing is both hard to read and perhaps verging on aloof and conceited in style. I also have concerns about how well first person narrative fits with my writing voice; I like to be specific with my description but my main character is a man. That’s not to say that men aren’t descriptive or specific but if I’m writing from his point of view would he really be noticing the beauty of that crisp, cold day in London? Or would he be more focussed on getting to work? That is where third person comes in handy because while I’m the one putting the ground work in, my character retains his integrity.

The third and granted the least important decision I need to make right now is whether to include chapters. If I do include chapters it means that I need to think of the story in rounded sections; day by day or event by event. If I decide on this route then I can always take them out later and have a continuous prose without too much hassle. It is a bit more difficult to put chapters in where they weren’t before but I haven’t used them so far in this draft.

For me, these decision have needed deliberation but I know that to some writers it comes fairly naturally. Perhaps my ability to choose has been warped by my recent stint in scriptwriting but all in all I think I’ve settle on past tense, first person and no chapters.

The reasoning behind it is that past tense would help the flow of the story. I started in present tense as it is set in the future but I think that the amount of information I need to pass to the reader would be better digested in the past tense. I’m staying with first person, I only have one main character, the rest are minor and so his monologue is the most vital to the story progression and will help keep the reader connected. Chapters are easily changed but for now, I won’t include them as I haven’t so far.

How do you make decisions with your writing or do you feel it should all flow naturally? Comments below are always welcome also put up links to your blog if you’ve also posted about these dilemmas as I’d love to read it.

The First Night

My mister is away this week on a course and I have plenty planned to keep me busy while he’s gone. I’m banning television till he’s back so that I make the most of the quiet for writing, my local gym is offering free passes for 7 days so I’ll be up early to get in before work and I’m hoping to clear some of the residual stress from the last few months of study and work.

It’s all very positive, I hate being bored and having the flat to myself is the perfect time to do all the things I’ve promised myself for too long. However, I only waved him off at the train station this morning and it’s evening now and dark. This is my first night alone in the flat since we moved in and we haven’t spent this long apart for quite some time.

So, in short, the reasoning behind this evenings poem is – I miss my mister.

The first night after you went away

I sat and listened to our quiet flat,
to my dinner as it digested,
the fuzz of the traffic outside
and the click of my needles as I knitted.
I heard the crockery
clack and jumble in the dishwasher,
to the rush and shunt of the water flow
and the popping of the old fridge freezer.

I put on music after a moment,
as the evening light is leaving
my eyes are strained and tired,
I can barely see the stitches I’m making.
It helped to fill the empty space,
where dinner would have been for two
the lack of conversation
and the overwhelming lack of you.

The cats have slept deeper than the dead today
while the summer heat is sweltering
they loll and flop by the open back door
not in the mood for cuddles or petting.
It’s not so bad being alone
and you’ll be back in no time at all
but I’ll still let them sleep on the bed tonight
and I’ll be waiting for you to call.

Freedom, freewriting and football

When I sent in my last assignment back in June I decided to take a break from writing. I wanted a chance to wash away the stress that had built up from studying and allow my mind to relax.

I feared, at first, that I wouldn’t go back to my personal writing projects until it was too late. September would come by and I would be thrown back into the stressful writing cycle of deadlines and essays and I’d have no time for myself again. In reality it didn’t take long at all, the itch crept in and I really longed for a little inspiration and a project to work on. So I turned to every writers friend; freewriting.

I’ve been writing about everything – work, holidays, frustration, family and football. It can’t have escaped your notice! It’s the World Cup and it’s given me a golden opportunity to write. Not because I enjoy the game (sorry to all you footy fans out there) but because my Mister likes the game and while he’s watching the match, I’m writing.

I’m currently working on a poetry collection, I have about 19 so far that I’ve brought together from the work I’ve done over the last year or so. These poems have been collated and since I decided to try and put them together I have been re-reading and editing and changing the order frequently. No poem can be said to be completely finished and until I say, ‘Yes, I’m ready to put this out to the world’, I’ll continue to work on them.

Some of these poems have featured on my blog but they are so much changed, hopefully for the better, that I would say they are almost new. I’m hopeful about this project and really looking forward to seeing the collection grow, I’m aiming for about 35 so I’ve got a lot more writing to do!

The rest of my time is being spent on getting back to my novel. I’m taking baby steps here as I’ve been working on this project for a long time and its been slow progress with a lot of stops and starts. I’m trying to pick up the style and the atmosphere again but I’ve been away from it for a while and my confidence has been knocked.

I’m writing a sci-fi and dystopian style piece for those who are new to my blog. The story brings together the loves in my life as I’ve always been interested in medicine with my Mum being a Nurse and science with my fiancé studying a Physics degree. Other writing influence comes from the classic dystopian style of George Orwell and the beautiful writing of Iain M. Banks.

I’m so grateful for being given this break from hectic study to work on these projects and have the chance to enjoy it rather than moments snatched.

What are you working on or do you prefer not to have a project and just let the words flow? Comment below, I’d love to hear from you.

Would you buy poetry for the Kindle? Also a Poll!

I have a small collection of poetry that I have written over the last year or so. It is almost enough to be considered a book now and I’m considering working on this to make it publishable.

My quandary is whether to self publish. I have read many articles that say how poetry is hard to get published, most professional publishing houses do not take poets these days as they are unlikely to make a profit from the sales. This makes me think that it might be worth self publishing but this would probably cost more than I can afford just for simple printing.

This leads me to the title question. Would you read poetry on your Kindle or buy a poetry collection that was published online? If so, would you expect this to be cheaper than a novel that was published as an e-book or would it depend on the content?

So many questions, I would really appreciate feedback on this and if anyone has tried self publishing or getting a collection published before.

Exciting news and a short story.

So, I managed it. I wrote 2,500 words and I sent it to the University in time. The exciting news I have to report is that I have been offered a conditional place to start studying in year two. This is fantastic news for me as I have been struggling for many years trying to study from home and not seeming to get very far.

The place is conditional as I need to complete my current module before September in order to have year 1 credits already. This is feasible but I am very behind at the moment and need desperately to catch up before June. Nerves are a’wrangling.

The short story that I wrote is something that I am relatively pleased with considering the short timescale and how stressed by it I was feeling. My previous post helped a lot with all the gibberish going around!

I wanted to share it here as it’s also the longest piece of writing I’ve done in a while now. It’s been mostly poetry which I’ve enjoyed but I do feel the need for lengthier pieces starting to grow. I have chosen to call this narrative – A train journey to paradise.

Trains have a unique smell. The underlying mechanical odour, something like petrol, is coated in layer upon layer of stale food, sweat, alcohol and bodily gases. As the ancient air absorbs each new addition I find myself imagining a swirling fog, groaning under the weight of its own foul existence. Not only does the smell worsen my motion sickness but the seats make the backs of my thighs itch through my tights and the strange design of the fabric reminds me of data coding. Perhaps today, I’m just more irritated than normal.

The motion of the train is steady as we roll north through the countryside. There won’t be any stops for this part of the journey so at least I can take a break from awkwardly ignoring the bodies leaning over the chair or the table while they wait. I have been lucky in a way, the last half hour I’ve seen more people leave the train than get on and so there aren’t many of us left in the carriage.

Across the aisle and a few rows down is a young man. A boy in my eyes but by the size of his backpack I would guess he is on his way home from University for a few days. There to visit his family and catch up with the friends that he left behind. He’s asleep now, I assume. The headphone has dropped from his right ear and his jaw is so slack you could place a tennis ball in his mouth without waking him. His chin is damp from drool which shows up his mix of sparse stubble and acne nicely in the erratic light from the window.

All I can see of the other souls on-board are the tops of their heads across the seats. I would guess by his full head of luscious locks and her large bouffant hairdo that there is a young couple at the front. How dowdy dressed and unkempt I must look to these little lambs. At least I can hide behind my reading glasses with their green frames and slight point at the hinge. I can drape my scarf over one shoulder, tilt my head to one side as I read and look as though I tumbled through a very creative hedgerow and not just your average oak.

I can relax for now, while the boy sleeps and the lovers cuddle up together in a bubble of romance. As far as I’m able to remember, young love is confusing and disobedient. A mass of emotion so great and terrifying that you whittle it away before it reaches its true potential, from then on it’s all a matter of choice. The person you can live with comfortably, without the feeling that you might kill them at any moment. That’s the person you stick with.

I like to rest my head on the window of a moving train sometimes. The vibration is teeth-chattering but clarifying in its intensity. Outside of the train I watch the world as we pass by at speed and see the scene change only slightly. Each field is filled with the same dank groups of animals huddled around water troughs or hay bales. The trees are bent and crooked like old war veterans, gnarled and arthritic. I follow one tree with my eyes as we pass it. A wound has split it down one side where a branch must have blown off in the terrible wind last night. It stood out for me on this colourless day with its clean, bright wood. Almost as alluring as naked flesh; it was a sight that I felt I shouldn’t have seen.

As houses start to grow in the landscape I expect the train to stop at a station again soon. They start off looking like they’ve been abandoned for years, tatty and rusted little barns that must only be good for storing machinery just as dilapidated inside of them. Small farm houses follow this; prim and practical with little garden area to speak of. Real farmers live in these, with real grit. I can imagine them out with the cattle in any weather, then home to their little wives for supper. As we start to pass bigger and pretty homes with bigger and more decorative gardens I sit up and scrunch my hair up into a more meaningful mess.

By the time we reach a station and stop I’m already fully positioned: book out, glasses halfway down my nose and a slightly quizzical look in my eyes. An old man drags a thin framed bike onto the train and parks it by the door. Without even a look he passes me by and takes a seat in front of the young man who I notice is awake now with his phone out. He isn’t texting or making a call but watching something. I can’t see what from here, a film perhaps? Strange to think you could be so desperate to be entertained that you’d watch anything on a screen that small.

I’m engrossed again with the wilfully perplexing love affair of Elizabeth and Mr Darcy. So hateful, rude and obnoxious they are to each other before that fateful letter. Suddenly love springs from the depths of this mutual distrust to find the two completely bewildered but so happy all the same. I decided this journey was a good time to read my old favourite again. It must be almost 10 years since I last took it from the shelf but I’m glad to have it as the stations come sooner and the carriage fills up again.

It’s only three more stops until I’m home. I’ve packed up my book and put my coat on so that I’m ready to go. The boy left the train at the last station, slung his backpack over one shoulder and bumbled down the aisle. I didn’t see the couple leave but there is a new pair of heads in their place, older and more ordinary this time. It’s starting to get dark outside and I can see that most of the passengers are commuters now, a mix of tired business men and women, students and teachers. I’m restless and irritated from the long travel and eager to get back home.

I’ve been in London for four days, trapped in a foreign world of high-paced living. Even walking is an aggressive act down there; in the streets or in the stations you have to watch out for people blindly rushing along, challenging you to stay in their path. It makes me tired. It makes me feel old and out of touch. I was ready to go home the moment I left but not much exists in this world that hasn’t passed through London at some stage and if I was going to take myself seriously as a writer then I had to go.

As I leave the station with my bag I pass by the taxicabs and opt for a walk instead; up the steep track and out of the town. I’ve missed the highland smell and after sitting for so long I take great strides and breathe in great gulps of fresh air.

As soon as I step through the door I’m attacked with devotion by Rupert. After bouncing up and down the hallway and trying to pull me over for belly rubs he finally settles down enough to let me get some food. In my comfy chair, with my friend-for-life by my side and a fire hissing and spitting in the grate I finally settle down to finish my book.

Building confidence by writing rubbish – Sharing a short story about Joshua

I have 14 days to write 2,500 words. These words aren’t just any, they are the words that will prove that I have what it takes to attend University (official, brick building style University not OU anymore).

These words are split between two tasks. The first is to write a journey that can be either actual or fictional. Very little detail is given with this task which opens it up so wide I can’t even decide what kind of journey to choose. It could be a physical journey on a bus, train or in the car or even a journey of discovery, spiritual or otherwise.

The second part is a review. Fortunately, I’ve read the book in question and so I can use my 14 days to write fully instead of having to speed-read the subject matter!

As the title of this post suggests, this is more about whether I have confidence in myself as I find I’m doubting my ability to do anything right now. Particularly, doubting my ability to write.

I find that by writing gibberish, I think clearer. Ideas flow a bit easier because it really doesn’t matter what I write. Although, I very rarely use any of the gibberish as it tends to be.. well, rubbish! I thought I’d share some here today, however as its getting late in the evening and I’ve had a full on day at work, the crud is flowing nicely in my tired brain.

So, today it happened. In a world where time doesn’t happen, ever and things are solid most often. We find a protagonist named Joshua. He is a small semi-cellular being with hair and a face with all the features where they should be. I like Joshua because he likes cake but I also think he has a good attitude to life.

He has a journey to go on where he meets dragons and monsters and a big hairy antagonist named Victor. I don’t like Victor so much as he likes olives and one of his eyes is quite a bit larger than everything else on his face. We’ll talk more about Victor after we have visited Joshua’s house.

When I was a child I would have loved to have lived in a house like Joshua’s house. It has a big garden with flowers in beds and a lawn that you can walk on without shoes on. I like the colour of Joshua’s house too, its pink with a big yellow stripe in the middle of it so it looks like a present. A beautiful present for me, all wrapped up with a bow.

That’s why I stole the keys and went inside..

Here I met Victor for the first time. He was sat at the dining room table with a big bowl of olives, all different colours. Not only do I dislike the taste of olives by the smell too and so I instantly took a strong dislike to the man I had just met. I tend to accept people based on their smell mainly, if it is a good smell I will mostly likely think you are the cheese’s knees. If it is a bad smell, well, some associations just can’t be broken. So, Victor is the dirty, hairy olive man that I don’t like.

I’m going to skip to the good stuff now because I’m boring myself with all this talk of olives and faces and pink.

Joshua met a big ferocious dragon! His teeth were as big as mountains. His eyes were the colour of blood. His scaly skin was thick and as hard as concrete. He had a soft, kind heart full of candy-floss and butterflies though. Mr Big Dragon hid his heart behind the nasty scary stuff so that no ghastly girls could get at it. They might eat poor Mr Big Dragon’s heart. I licked it once. It was tasty.

Joshua used all his magical hero powers to fly up into the air and stab Mr Big Dragon in the nose. Unfortunately, Joshua is quite small compared to Mr Big Dragon so it actually felt like having a nose hair pulled out and one single tear fell from Mr Big Dragon’s eye.

That stung a little.’ he said and Joshua laughed.

I hope you have enjoyed my random act of writing. I also hope that it has given you the confidence to write, wherever, whenever, HOWEVER you see fit. Funny, serious, scary, sensual… everything. Nothing is pointless.

Novel writing and talking point – Swearing in writing

I came back to my novel today, crawled back on my knees and re-read what I’d worked so hard on before. I felt slightly guilty for leaving it so long, especially as I could hardly remember how far I’d got last time I sat down to do any writing for it.

Today, I gave it a go and wrote 700 words, introduced a new character and edited some of the previous pages. Its a start. We’ll see how it goes.

I was suppose to be studying when I decided to write for my novel. Ever the confused procrastinator, instead of working on the script for my assignment I decided to drag up past writing relationships instead.

I am finding this scriptwriting module hard to stick with though, the course materials seem basic in one sense and in another I just don’t know what I’m doing! I need to write two scenes for this assignment making use of conflict and how dialogue is effected by characters also having actions in scenes. While at the same time looking at idiom, idiolect and basic story telling.

If anyone has tried scriptwriting or uses this form often, I’d love to hear your thoughts on conflict and idiom/idiolect. As the assignment looks at conflict particularly, a part of me wants to include swearing but I’m almost too afraid to push the boundaries. What are your views on swearing in writing, is it necessary to convey emotions and personality or do you think it detracts from good writing?

Well, it has been a long time hasn’t it!

I can’t believe its been so long since I wrote on my blog page! I’m sorry for not being around and sharing in the wonderful and inspirational writing that’s been posted.

It’s all been a bit hectic and normally I’d have come on to have a good rant about it! With long days at work and stressful university study to finish its all fallen apart a bit. I have continued to write though, in the midst of the chaos and I’ve come back with a little poem to share.

Straight Poet

Perhaps if I had written a thousand verses
about moonshine and the wistful nights,
dabbled in the hypnotic, in dancing and drink
while the heat licked at my heart.

Perhaps if I had been a vivid child
who sang for jeopardy and ecstasy,
beckoned at dusk with my misbehaviour
to delight in the shadows flickering.

I could sit here with a head full of visions
pluck from the library of misperception
to tell you stories of the lizard and snake
while you sink into a pool of cushions.

I cleared my plate after every blunder
and I ran from the monkey on my back
now I have very little to offer you
but the words that those spirits lacked.

I have a collection of philosophy to share
a few holes in my soul that I’d like to bare
if by reading this you create a stitch
then patch me up and leave me enriched.

I look forward to getting back into the swing of things both reading blogs posts and writing them!

As Low As It Gets

I often try to give an explanation of the poems I put up on here. Some kind of interpretation or reason why I wrote it. I can’t today. Sometimes you have to trust that it doesn’t always come from inside – that the world is writing through you.

As low as it gets

You have become my head-throb
the rooms, the walls curving in
inches between beats.
You have become my distraction
aching for words, like parted lips
that will only settle when fed.

Nothing can explain it
to have your attention
is more than simple curiosity.
Nothing can quell it,
those sorry, guilty desires
burnt onto the back of my skull.

I’ll die here,
the crime of my deception,
what I had was worth it.
I’ll die here,
scarlet woman cut into my skin,
and bleed all of hell at your feet.

But I love you
and those words carry sanctuary,
enough to make me feel whole.
But I love you
and I hope you never know what I’ve done,
never troubled by scars on my heart.