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Write Every Day. Seriously

Chatter Boy

Chatter Boy

I hate it when advice turns out to be spot on.

When you start writing, the advice you are always given is ‘write every day’. I’ve managed to skirt around it for the last five years, with the excuse that I have young children (apart from last year, when I took writing every day to a new extreme).

And, to be fair, for a long time I survived on writing only on a couple of days a week. But what I did in between didn’t seem to clutter my brain, and I managed to sustain my story in my head.

Now the children are older, my mind is constantly filled with someone else’s words. Even now as I write this my daughter is showing me photos, videos, making up poems and asking questions. She knows I’m working – this is her ‘not interrupting’.

No wonder when I have sat down to write recently, I’ve been more caught up in whether the children have finished their homework or what’s for tea than why Edan hates his dad.

Yesterday I was full of cold so hubbie gallantly volunteered to have our youngest while I went to bed (there are some advantages to having hubbie at home). It threw me completely, because usually I work Monday, Wednesday and Friday and have my son home the other days. Even though I slept most of the day and did very little writing, I had a break from the endless chatter and need to listen to words other than the ones in my head. (They are my children after all – they have so many words!)

As a result of the extra child-free day I thought today must be Tuesday. Realising it was a work way was marvellous. I got so much done. I wrote several scenes and rearranged a few more. I stopped trying to over-think my plot while the kids watched Dora, and just wrote some stuff down. I remembered that I know how to write.

I used to have my nursery days together, two days mid-week. I think I would need to do that again if I am going to finish this darn book (I can’t though because the nursery don’t have space.) Thankfully, the darlings will both be at school from next September. Even though that will mean double the homework, ironing and paperwork, it will also mean five glorious consecutive mornings of writing time.

Bring it on.

 

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My Brain Hates Me

This is my brain

This is my brain

My brain hates me.

Ever since I started back writing after the summer holidays, when I sit at my laptop and stare at the shambles that is my current work in progress, my brain shrugs and says, “nah, I got nothing.”

But 4 a.m. after a crazy day of laundry, school runs, home work sessions and Rainbows drop offs, it comes up with the most Technicolor, conflict-laden, heart-wrenching epic dreams.

Take last night: My dream included a man chasing me through a hotel, where the darn door locks wouldn’t work and I had to climb out the window, only to discover some pots by Tibetan Monks being sold as tourist junk, inscribed with, ‘free my people’ and ‘I live on one cup of rice every fourteen days’ (?!), and a journalist insisted on taking photos of me holding them in awkward poses, while in the background two people were uncovering a dead infant beneath the foundations of the hotel.

I mean, WTF? In the day time, I can’t decide if one of my lead characters in Finding Lucy is gay, but I can construct some warped version of an NCIS program in my sleep? Where’s the fairness in that?

I can only assume that my creativity is buried beneath Christmas shopping, school paperwork, reading homework, ironing, shopping, cooking and concern that hubbie is still between jobs, and it only manages to free itself from the shackles when my conscious brain is out for the count. I’m going to have to stop eating chocolate and reading Harry Potter at bedtime!

Oh for a virtual iPad to record my dreams, then I really would Be A Bestseller (I sent my entry in last week and now wait in terror for Friday, just in case by some scary freak accident I get selected and have to appear on TV!)

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2014 in Competitions, Writing

 

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I Want to Be a Bestseller, Oh Yes (Oh No)

The judges don't look at all scary

The judges don’t look at all scary

This week I’ve been working on a competition entry, flagged up to me by fellow blogger and authors Pat Elliott and Helen Yendall.

The UK based competition is being run by ITV This Morning and Curtis Brown (an agency I’ve submitted to in the past). The entry has to be the first 3,000 words of a work in progress (I wonder how many NaNo first drafts will be entered) together with a one-page synopsis.

As my WIP has three POV characters, back story, tarot mysteries and hidden secrets, I found it almost impossible to write a coherent one-page synopsis. I’m also reliably informed that having three POV characters in the first four chapters is pretty confusing, so I don’t expect to go far.

And actually that’s fine with me, because even though one of the judges is my idol Marian Keyes, and the prize includes a six month writing course and representation by Curtis Brown, the idea of being shortlisted leaves me quivering like a cowardly jelly.

Why?

No desire to sit on these sofas!

No desire to sit on these sofas!

Because the five finalists have to go to London in a couple of weeks and appear on live TV. I think they might even have to read out some of their novel. I genuinely can’t imagine anything worse. Even meeting Marian doesn’t tempt me. I couldn’t get a book signed by Joanne Harris, even though I love her novels, because I was too embarrassed.

Shy, introvert, HSP, anxiety, whatever my affliction is, meeting new people terrifies me.

So, I’ve entered, I’ve worked hard on my entry and I’m reasonably pleased with it. But don’t wish me luck because I’m not sure I want it! Thankfully, having watched the launch program, I don’t think I’m in any danger of having to sit on that couch!

Oh for the days when writers sat in their drafty garrets and spurned the public!

 

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Half Term and Halloween

The closest I'll ever get to space

The closest I’ll ever get to space

I feel guilty that I’m not managing to blog regularly at the moment. With all the various things going on in my life, I don’t have many words. I have been pouring my creativity into other endeavours – knitting, playing the piano, photo editing and rearranging the furniture.

It’s also half term here in the UK and while ten days has been easier to manage than six weeks, I still find it drains me so that I just want to sleep. That’s been exacerbated by the clocks going back last weekend – our normally early rising kids have taken it to new extremes by getting up at 5 a.m. every day, and still not getting sleepy until 8 p.m. I wish I knew where they got their energy from. At least we have been blessed with some unseasonal gorgeous autumn weather.

So, in lieu of interesting words, here are some random family snaps to bore you instead! :) Hopefully life will right itself sometime soon and normal service will resume.

First ever trick or treat adventure

First ever trick or treat adventure

Pumpkin Trail at Lyveden New Bield

Pumpkin Trail at Lyveden New Bield

Fishing in October

Fishing in October

Knitted brooches

Knitted brooches

Halloween cookies (made without cutters)

Halloween cookies (made without cutters)

Den building at West Lodge

Den building at West Lodge

Sand castles on halloween

Sand castles on halloween

Making potions in the garden

Making potions in the garden

Carving pumpkins

Carving pumpkins at Sacrewell Farm

Directing a space launch

Directing a space launch

Pony ride on cracker

Pony ride on cracker

 

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Rather Prosaic Life Update

My submission pack

My submission pack

One of my regular blog followers/commenters, Hollis (thank you, Hollis!) suggested recently that my blog silence might be due to my being busy with the children or maybe even volunteering. I felt guilty, because my absence is due to nothing so altruistic.

I have been head-down this month, it’s true, but with the purely selfish motive of getting Dragon Wraiths ready for The Times/Chicken House children’s novel competition. The deadline is the end of October but, as it’s half term next week, I wisely posted my manuscript on Monday.

There’s nothing like printing off 265 pages of manuscript to make you realise you are a real author. Unfortunately I still struggle with cover letters and writing a synopsis. But it’s done. All I can do now is hope. My dream is to make top twenty. Fingers crossed.

Mohair Brooches

Mohair Brooches

It shows the cyclical nature of writing and trying to get published, as it was almost exactly two years ago that Dragon Wraiths (in it’s original format) was longlisted for the Mslexia competition and I was polishing final edits before posting the manuscript. Let’s hope it’s second time lucky.

I have also been knitting like a demon. I want to have enough things to run a stall at the children’s Christmas Fair, with little things at pocket money prices. So I’ve put cats, monkeys and dogs on hold, and I’m making mohair brooches with the gorgeous wool my mum gave me on my birthday. Great fun, if not great for the hands.

It’s been a creative month, all in all. I have taken up piano again, in an effort to get the children interested in music, and work is progressing on Finding Lucy. I solved my writer’s block by adding in two extra points of view, for the two lead males. I’m enjoying getting inside different heads.

I made the blue one!

I made the blue one!

It was also my daughter’s first Learning Conversation (parents’ evening) since starting school proper in September. She’s nicely middle of the road although I did have to confess to her teacher how hard I find it to not correct her spelling (they let them spell phonetically)!

And, of course, as November approaches, I have the annual NaNoWriMo dilemma. Finding Lucy started life in my first NaNoWriMo attempt, six years ago. But the only child I had then was growing in my tummy, not demanding my twenty-four hour attention.

Now November means half-term, early starts after the clocks go back and the terrors start getting up at 5am, and pitch-black school pick ups. Not really conducive to creativity for me.

So I think I’ll plod on with my WIP and let others with more energy sprint for the 50,000 word finish line! If you’re NaNoing this year, good luck!

My NaNo top tips are here.

 

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FCKH8 Exploits Little Girls In Order To Sell T-Shirts

Amanda Martin (writermummy):

I felt uncomfortable about the recent FCKH8 viral video when I saw it on Facebook, even before I discovered that it was basically a promo for t-shirts. This beautifully explains why.

Originally posted on The Belle Jar:

Trigger warning for rape

Yesterday, FCKH8 released a video called F-Bombs for Feminism: Potty Mouthed Princesses Use Bad Words for Good Cause that quickly went viral, and has been shared hundreds of thousands of times on Facebook alone. This isn’t surprising – it’s a video designed to hit that marketing sweet spot where people are equal parts outraged, delighted and just plain not sure what to think. I’d be willing to bet that this video has had nearly as many hate-shares as it has people posting it because they think it’s great.

FCKH8’s video is carefully calculated to appeal to a certain type of young, hip feminist (as well as being designed to cause offence and outrage among right-wing conservatives). It starts out with a bunch of sweet little girls wearing princess costumes striking stereotypically cute poses and simpering “pretty” at the camera. Then there’s a record scratch, and suddenly the girls…

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Posted by on October 22, 2014 in Parenting

 

Learning Characterisation from Humans Of New York

HONY Facebook Page

HONY Facebook Page

I’ve talked about the Humans of New York Facebook page many times before, mostly in passing. Today I wanted to discuss what an amazing resource the page is for writers.

For me, one of the hardest parts of being a writer is coming up with three-dimensional characters. When I start a first draft my characters are usually pretty vague. I know their motivation or I know the key story problem (Helen getting pregnant, Rebecca’s dislike of the upper class, Lucy’s need for a family and to fit in), but the character starts out as a hazy version of me at some earlier point in my life. They move on from that, and by the end of the first draft they become living, breathing, talkative people in my head. But I think one of the reasons I like my male characters better is because the starting point for them is more often men I know and admire or love, rather than versions of me. (There’s a lot of hubbie in Marcio!)

The problem now is that my novels are starting to have mirror scenes. I’m stuck with Finding Lucy because it starts with a death and a funeral – as does Class Act (although Finding Lucy came first.) Now, it’s unlikely many people will read both, as Class Act bombed, but I can see the reviews now. “Amanda Martin’s latest novel is dull and repetitive, with chunks lifted directly from her previous release.” Oh joy.

Similarly, the protagonists often have similar upbringings and backgrounds because I write more authentically when I can really live it (or have lived it!)

Brandon's Latest Post

Brandon’s Latest Post

So where does HONY come in? I’ve been editing Dragon Wraiths this week for one final time before entering it in the Chicken House/Times competition, after having had the lovely lady who proofread Class Act run through it. She pointed out the bits where I lose the sense of Leah being a teen (my editor has teenage kids, which is fantastic). But she also pointed to the bits where I evoke Leah’s backstory well, when she was in foster care.

I did a lot of research online for the care scenes, and the snippet of Leah’s time on the streets. I wanted it to be realistic but not sensationalist, genuine but not too gritty. A fine line. But then I read a HONY post yesterday which gave an insight into care in one paragraph. In fact it created a whole story and three-dimensional character in a couple of hundred words. Each HONY post does.

When Brandon Stanton (the amazing man behind Humans Of New York) was on his UN tour, the stories were beyond my ability to visualise, but now he’s back in New York the wealth of material is incredible. Not just for main characters. I think one of the reasons Baby Blues resonates with people is because all the characters have stories of their own. I chose not to develop the bit-characters in Class Act, because some reviews of Baby Blues said it was crowded with people, but I’m learning you can’t please everyone!

What Brandon shows is that a person’s whole life and character can be depicted in half a page. He has a way of getting under people’s skin to their very essence. He gets them to tell the core of their life story succinctly but with feeling. I read his posts to keep me grounded in the stories of the world, but also I read them to learn from a master.

 

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