Category Archives: Writing

Bleeding Ink – A collection of dark tales (inc. one of mine!)

Exciting news! I’ve had my very first short story (called The Heart) published in an anthology: Bleeding Ink – A Collection of Dark Tales. 

I can’t really tell you much about the story because it would totally spoil it, but the whole theme of the anthology was to have tales/poems with a twist to them. I haven’t yet had a chance to read through the all the other tales yet, but I will be. 🙂

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Alt.Fiction 2012

I spent the weekend (with hubby) up in Leicester for Alt.Fiction.  Whats strange about Leicester is that it’s only about an hour from St Pancras, and yes you have to get to St Pancras but it means it takes almost the same amount of time to get to Leicester as it does to say cross London (either North-South or East-West) how crazy is that?

On to Alt.Fiction a weekend filled with talks on writing, fiction and meeting lovely people.

The two best talks I went to were ‘Not another F**king elf’ and ‘Diversity in Fantasy’.

The first turned into a rather informal chat (I don’t know if the lack of a moderator was an oversight or not?) about the trope of elves, discussing how they’re portrayed in fiction/computer games how they sort of represent our spiritual selves. Also talked about the zombie horde and how they have become (like Orcs were) the faceless horde that can be killed without consequence. (Although I wanted to mention but didn’t get a chance to that Zombies are more an environmental thing traditionally the story is about how its the humans who screw each other open and fuck up their chance to survive.)  I also wanted to mention but it kind of got mentioned elsewhere that the archetype of elves (arrogant, long lived, old ‘dying’ race) is not just limited to fantasy but its also in SF. (Vulcans, Asari, Minbari – interesting none in Starwars but then most of the races are pretty much human just with slight physical differences.)  It was also pointed out that while elves can vary quite a bit between different worlds, dwarves (IF they are included) are often portrayed in exactly the same way across worlds. This was all a very interesting discussion and allowed me to geek out a bit when people start mentioning words like ‘Roleplaying’, ‘Skyrim’, ‘Bioware’ etc.

My one complaint about this talk (hmm maybe 2) was a) I could have happily sat there and listened/tried to discuss this a bit longer and b) the room was so small that people had to be turned away, hubby missed this one and he was quite disappointed about it.

The second did exactly what it said on the tin, discussed gender, race and sexual preferences. These are all quite hot topics at the moment and I found this was a very good discussion. One of the panel members is one of the few female writers for the Black Library and it was pointed out by Adrian Tchaikovsky that Warhammer is one of the few things where nothing is a faceless horde. Everything has to be playable and so there has to be something that people can relate to even if they are playing the evil sides like Chaos. (This got me into a discussion with hubby on the train home that I think I’ll do in another post. )  I kind of wish that at the end I had asked/commented on the whole issue of people being surprised by the race of one of the characters in The Hunger Games. (People basically being stupid, not reading properly and being racist.)

I went to a few other talks but none really matched the energy of these ones and I got a little annoyed at some of the talks, mostly at some things which just didn’t make sense.

I also met quite a few of the Apocalypse Girls which was great 😀 got to sit down with some of them and a few others and just chat about all manor of things, from Anime to ethnicity on forms. ‘Twas all good. 🙂

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All Night Write In

At the weekend I organised (with the help of several people, you know who you are – thanks for the help!) and ran my very first Write In and to show that I am indeed quite mad it was an all-nighter as well(!)

To those that don’t know what a write in is then the aim of it is to qive writers some quite time to work on.. whatever it is they’re working on, be it you’re novel, short story or hell even a dissertation! The write in starts with short bursts of quite writing time (approx 15 mins) and then builds up to say 20, 30, 45 possibly 1 hour, depending on how people feel and then you start working you’re way back down. In between these times there are breaks when you can chat, eat or perhaps do some games to get everyone motivated again.
Where did I get the idea from? I may have borrowed/nicked it from one that was run around the end of NaNoWriMo last year. I didn’t actually go to that one. (I wasn’t doing NaNo last year, I forgot it was on and I recall for some reason that I was incredibly tired that day!) So a lot of me figuring out how a write-in should even work was from me interrogating those people that had gone.
On the whole I think the write-in went pretty well! I got about 4.5k words written, although I’m unsure as to how much of that is just gibberish. By the time we hit 2 am though I think many of us were hitting the “I’m so tired I can’t focus” wall. And I’m pretty sure we ended up having much longer break session that writing periods. One of my friends had bought in a box of movie quiz questions and another some generic quiz questions so we spent quite a while answering those and just chatting. I was pretty awake during these periods (helped by the fact that I was munching on sugary popcorn) and then once we did even a 15 min writing window I would try for the first few minutes and then seriously zone out. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was doing that either. Even had a conversation on twitter with another person there about the need for coffee.. Only to have someone say after the stint that surely if there was no talking allowed during the writing period we shouldn’t be twittering either…  well yes ok I suppose you have a point. 😛
I have learnt though that the next time I organise one (and there will be a next time but not until the summer) that when I send the information out I should probably say that around 10ish we will probably have a really long break so that people can go get food/visit supermarket for food before it closes. As those of us that went to a kebab took a really long time as we had to walk there wait for food to be prepared and come back to eat it. And it worries me a little that those people who came later and then left about midnight might not have got as much out of the night as those who came early and left around midnight or who stayed all night. So next time I will make sure to have a rough schedule and an explanation for what a write-in is when we advertise, but it was a bit hard for me to do that for this one as I honestly had no idea what to expect!
At some point I will have to look at what I’ve written and see if it makes any kind of sense… I’m tempted to not do that until I have the first draft of my novel done. (I’m getting there slowly.) It has though given me time to get to know that character who was giving me so much trouble before, his whole motivation has pretty much changed, and for the better. I can forsee him being quite important in any potential later books! 🙂

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Importance of Character Motiviation & Backstory

For a while now I have been working on my novel, and for the most part it’s been going fairly well. I sit down, I type words, scenes appear. Sometimes when my shoulder/wrist is playing up I have  a moan and a sulk that I can’t write/find a comfy spot to write in. But generally I was happily typing along, watching as my word count reached 50k and equalled what ‘d written for NaNoWriMo (which had been the longest thing I’d ever written) and then it trundled on further. And I thought wow, could I possibly hit that mytical 100k words?!

And then these last 2-3 months I hit a wall. I wouldn’t say it was exactly writers block because I knew the scenes that I needed to write. The conversations that people needed to have but I was sort of stuck.

My problem? One of my characters just did not want to talk to me.  I have four main characters for three of them, I know how they’ll react. I know what is motivating them, why they make the choices they do. But one of them, he was just not playing ball.

I thought I knew what his motivation was, but when I wrote the first scene he was in it sort of felt like pulling teeth. And as I wrote that and the next one,  I was like ‘eeeh’ so I skipped another scene with him in because I just couldn’t get a feel for the conversation. And then I skipped another. I managed a few scenes later on where theres a bit of a conversation leading on to other things, but all the time I was unhappy about it. Finally I reached what I feel is sort of a pivotal scene for me at least.  Where all the four characters finally meet up.

I wrote a bit. I hated it. I re-wrote. I pondered. I queried with someone else. I pondered some more. I attempted to re-write.  Still unhappy.

All the time my head just kept telling me ‘just write’ which is what I learned from doing NaNo, but when the scene could head in two completely different ways and could affect the following scenes quite a lot I just couldn’t.

So I sort of left it alone for a while, I’ve had a busy (and somewhat stressful few months) I worked on a couple of short stories. (I probably have to many stories on the go at the moment but oh well.) But.. But.. the novel is on 73k words… that’s not just something I can leave. I don’t feel like this was ‘writing practice’ like my NaNo was. And it’s not even like it has a start, middle and end like my NaNo did either! I mean sure it might never get published but I should at least finish the damned thing!

Then it occurred to me, what if I change the characters name? I take forever to come up with names for characters, I like to make sure they fit. And I wondered if I changed the name to something that to me signified someone who was more cheerful and cheeky, perhaps that would work.

On Sunday I sat down and began to re-read over the first scene with this character. Yes I know, once a scene is written I should really leave any re-reads until it’s all done and I start editing. But in this case I a) needed to reacquaint myself with things and b) try and get to grips with this character.

So I started to re-write the scene and then had something of an epiphany.  I decided to change his opinion on something that had happened in his past and this suddenly gave a whole new spin on the character. Another reason for him to do what he does.  An actual Motivation!

The reason I had before, made him come across as a bit of a dick, and also made you question as to why my main character put up with him, why didn’t she just leave. (nothing wrong with having a character who is a dick, but I didn’t have enough there to write with!)

There was nothing for them to talk about, and she was keeping something secret, and it made her seem like a bit of a cow for perhaps ‘leading him on’ (she isn’t supposed to be).  But this new motivation, this added dimension to the character? It changes things a lot! (Including his personality to an extent.)

There are feelings & reasons behind his choices, something that he doesn’t want to talk about (and really should). He’s a bit lost and throwing himself into anything that will keep him occupied.

I’ve realised as I write this that the other part of my problem was that until that point I didn’t really know his back story, well I sort of did but I wasn’t using his history to affect decisions he made. With the other 3 characters I was. I know that one of them is quite young, and while she considers herself friends with one of them, she’s still somewhat prejudice towards him (but doesn’t realise it). He in turn is very old, and has the patience of a saint. He’s seen a lot and takes things in his stride. And my main character? Well she’s got her reasons too. But not this guy, until now.

I will admit that I haven’t written any new scenes since I had this revelation but I’m hoping now that I have something to work off.

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Sitting comfortably?

So I’m about to be somewhat boring here but at the same time this is something that has been bugging me at home for quite a while. Months ago I posted about back issues that I was having. These sort of went away for a bit but recently my shoulder issues have been flaring up with a vengeance. Added to that RSI now flaring in my left wrist, and now not being able to bend my right hand properly typing at computers and in fact doing most things has been really difficult. At work I have been able to combat this somewhat by requesting a graphics tablet (Wacom’s Bamboo) instead of a mouse. This has helped somewhat as my arm seems to be in a better position now, and i’m not constantly resting my hand on the mouse and twisting my arm into an unnatural position.  See here

Also not doing a constant clicking motion with my index finger seems to help a lot. The tapping motion on the tablet is a lot gentler.

So at work I’m fairly ok. At home though? Home wasn’t so good.

I’ve started doing a lot of writing and this has meant I have constantly been moving about the house to try and find a good position. Before my shoulders flared up again I was generally ok sitting in a comfy chair with my netbook on my lap. Or propped up on the bed with appropriate pillows for my back. Netbook on a cushion on my lap. But this isn’t so good now, and perhaps this has been a contributing factor? I don’t know.

Why don’t I simply sit at my computer? You ask.

Firstly due to space issues it is on a shitty desk which has a pull out draw for the keyboard.  I cannot physically get comfy at this desk any more. It’s ok for gaming on but sitting for long periods typing? Well I’m sitting at it now typing this post up, you can see the post isn’t so long at the moment and I can already feel my hands complaining. The arms on the desk chair are slightly to high for where the keyboard is to type comfortably and I cannot lower them further.

Secondly if I’m on the PC it means hubby cannot play Fallout/Mass Effect/Dragon Age etc etc.

So I became somewhat grumpy and irritable due to not being able to sit comfortably for a while and setting into writing. Which considering the stage where I’m at with my novel I need to be able to sit down and focus before I start. I’ve written so much already that I need to have an idea at least of what I’m supposed to be writing before I start. Stopping and starting on short stories is a lot easier as there’s less to think about.

I recalled however that I did actually have a perfectly good desk in another room. Albeit one that a) has my sewing machine and stuff on and b) often then covered with Warhammer stuff so I can’t even USE said sewing machine.  Well I decided that this had to stop. We had a tidy up over Xmas with the Warhammer, throwing out quite a few empty boxes. This was especially important as I finally got a rotary cutter and cutting board for Xmas and so I needed space for the board.

However I had no chair. Well I had a dining table chair, but that is not comfortable to sit on for long periods of time and more importantly doesn’t offer that much back support.  Still the problem with ergonomic chairs is that usually they are pretty expensive. Especially if you want them to be fully adjustable (movable arms, seat, back etc etc)/

Still good thing there is Ikea. Although I do advise that going at 4pm on a Sunday when you’re in pain… not a good idea. And for £62 this isn’t bad:

It tilts a bit, seat isn’t too large, and the back is actually a good shape. Its not that adjustable but its pretty comfy for what it is. So hopefully this means I will have somewhere comfy that I can sit and write while not messing anything else up!

Incidentally this is also why I haven’t really done many posts on painting Games Workshop models, I cannot sit for long periods painting them. Today I painted one model brown and then had to stop because my shoulders objected. I was only painting for about 10 minutes, so you can see that at that rate its going to be a while before I EVER finish anything. Which is annoying because I’d really like to finish my Blood Angel army!!

 

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A thoughtful Xmas gift

So I got quite a nice haul for Christmas, some DVD’s; the complete series of The Mysterious Cities of Gold ( I wonder how this bears up with what I remember from childhood, which to be honest isn’t very much), Season 5 of Doctor Who (still missing season 4 though, not quite sure how that happened). Nigel Slater Kitchen Diary’s, which on the one hand the layout seems somewhat awkward, but it should prove an interesting read, I do like his fairly straight forward recipes. Plus a few other bits and pieces, no knitting stuff but I did finally get a rotary cutter and cutting mat. So no excuses for me to not make that quilt set I got last year!!

Hubby, being the clever man that he is, also bought me the following book.

I must say I was a little dubious when I opened it and saw the cover. We’re both quite practice people we don’t believe in any of this stuff.  But when I had a flick through I realised what it was, a reference guide to what things mean, be they symbol, plant, animal etc.

As someone who tends to write fantasy based stories this is incredibly useful, especially if I want to have a play about with particular tropes!  So it should help me with my stories.

Hubby is clearly hoping that I will now no longer pester him with question like. ‘What plans represent protection?’ or ‘what does x creature represent?’ I can now simply pick up the book and have a look through it. (Which er may take a while there’s over 500 pages).  (I’ll probably still ask though 😉 )

I’m looking forward to finding the time to have a flick through it! Now I simply need to find shelf space for it.

 

 

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Abandoning 50K Words

So  last year I took part in NaNoWriMo and I succeeded in reaching those precious 50k words (yay!), I’m not doing this year because I’m 57k words deep in to the novel I’ve been working on since July, and I don’t want to take my focus away from it, as I’ve got about another 50k words to write for it.  However I got asked by someone at my writing group the following questions:

1) how on earth did I managed to write 50k words in a month –

I don’t know, literally writing was all I did that month, 1633 words every day is hard work, and then there’s the days where you know you have to write more because you know you won’t be able to write another day. I wrote before work, lunch time and after work, with not much time for thought.

2) how could I just leave what I’d written and not go back to it, 50k words is a lot (and is actually the longest thing I’ve ever written till my current novel which now has a larger word count) did I not feel obliged to do something with it?

The short answer here is no.

The longer answer?

I learnt a lot doing NaNoWriMo last year, firstly that you don’t have to write things in order. Yes I know that sounds obvious, but its something that never occurred to me before.  If you’re not sure how to get the story from A to B then it can make life so much easier to just write A and B and write the journey between the two later. Sure you may have to edit B later because things might change in the journey but still it’s written and done and helps give a point to aim at.

Also I learned that sometimes you just have to write that god awful sentence. Because even though its awful it helps you move onto the next bit and the next bit and then after a while the sentences start to flow better. And here’s the thing you can always EDIT THAT SENTENCE LATER.

I think NaNoWriMo also rekindled my passion for writing.

However at the same time I feel that a lot of what I wrote I wrote for the sake of word count. There are some scenes that I wrote where I don’t understand why I threw so much crap at the main character. Putting you character through hell and back is not a problem but there was so much of it and very disjointed, things happened just because. Basically I didn’t have time to think.

Yes sometimes you need to write, but I find that some times I need to pause, to think about what my characters are doing, where the plot is going. Sometimes the writing things makes things go in a direction I didn’t expect, but at the same time I find that I at least need something of an idea to aim at; why is the character doing this? What do they want? What are they like? This may evolve when I’m writing it, but I need that time to think and I found I didn’t have that with NaNoWriMo.

So what this boils down to is that I have a large 50k document that I don’t want to edit because I know how unwieldy it is.  Now yes some of this is probably because I’m afraid to edit.  I’m enjoying what I’m working on now, the simple process of writing it, but I honestly am now quite sure how I’m going to edit it. Mostly because I’ve never edited something so big, I suspect I shall be scouring the web for editing tips for ways to make my life easier. (I’ve already found a good one here written by Brent Weeks.)

However because I’ve had time to think I’m really hoping (how I’m hoping!) that the overal structure of this story makes sense a lot more sense  then the over all structure of my NaNoWriMo, which has branches going everywhere.

Now this isn’t to say that I don’t like what I wrote for NaNoWriMo, on the contrary I think I managed some quite good bits in it, and there are a few scenes that I really like. And perhaps one day I might come back to it, in fact since being asked the question I’ve already had a slight thing about it, and re-write it. Change some of the character motivations, what they do, and quite possibly copy some of the scenes from my NaNoWriMo over word for word on that first draft.

But then again I might not, who knows. To be honest I would be more disappointed with myself if I did that with my current novel. I want to finish it, I want the pride of knowing that I’ve finished the draft and have spent time tidying it up in to a state that people can read. And then perhaps if I’m very very lucky it might get published. But at least I’d know that I have something finished something that I could send to people to read if they wanted. (Perhaps I’m more in love with this story as well, a lot of the early stuff just seems to have written itself, yes I know that sounds cliché, but that is how I feel about it.)

So at the end of the day the answer is no, that story served its purpose, I learned from it and I’m content to leave it be.

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A writers voice?

So every two weeks I go to a local writing group, or as we dub it our ‘Writing Support Group’ we don’t set homework, we don’t force people to write, it’s a place where people can come read something and get some feed back on it, or run a plot summary past people or ask general questions about writing.

Last meeting one of the guys had found a writing class where they helped writers find their voice, to learn what it was, and he raised it as a question, what exactly is the writers voice, does everyone have one, how do you find out what yours is, is it learnt or a natural gift?

We had a chat about it and we, or at least I, came up with the following. That everyone does have a voice, that no matter what you write, it will always be your voice, however as you grow and develop that voice will change and become more defined, and while yes some people will find this easier than others, they may just have a better gift for words etc you still have a voice.

I brought up art as an example for this, as I feel because of the medium its easier to see what is meant by ‘voice’ or in this case ‘vision’. Often, when people are wanting to draw comics they will start out drawing people that are clearly heavily influenced by Japanese Anime/Manga. And yes ok some people won’t move beyond this stage, they’ll doodle, perhaps they don’t have the time to dedicate to the hobby maybe they start a web comic and then give up (its hard work, I tried it once!). But there are those who write that do a similar thing, maybe they start stuff and never finish, maybe they’d love to write but just don’t get the time. Still even at this stage this is what their voice is.

However if you were to look at an artists work over time (and webcomics are a good example of this) you will see their art change, develop and grow. Where they might have started drawing pictures that were very similar to Anime/Manga they will perhaps start to find their own way to depcit things, perhaps other work will start to influence them. They’re work will start to change and grow, their ‘voice’ is developing. Writing is surely the same thing, the more you write the more you read the more your voice will develop. And while you may find that certain authors will influence your writing style more, it’s still at the end of the day your style, your voice. And as with any talent you will find that your voice is good at some things and not others.

For example I really like to read China Mieville and I love Zoo City By Lauren Beurkes, they have different style and I love the way that they use language, but I know that for me I could never write in the same way that they do. I don’t think my mind works quite like that, but it does make me think about the language and the way they’ve put sentences together as I’m reading it.

Other authors, for me, are easier to take ideas from, such as Joe Abercrombie who writes quite gritty and very gory stories. He’s very descriptive when it comes to blood and puss. I find it very easy to think about the words he’s using the way he’s putting it together and consider that if I were to write a fight scene I can use those words to get the feeling across.  I’m not trying to mimic him here, but I feel that reading Abercrombie  has helped me think more about what is needed for a fight scene and to change my writing style somewhat. But it’s still my voice, I’m taking what I’ve learnt changing it and doing it my own way. Sure you might see influences of certain authors in there, (well ok perhaps if I ever become published) but the key word here is influenced. I’ve done things in my own idiom.

(Hehe and now I am thinking of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.)

Anyway I hope that makes sense.  Don’t worry about finding your voice, you have it, its just the more you write/read the better it will get.

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Story: Things That Go Bump in the Night

So there was a local Halloween competition to write  short story/poem up to 1000 words based on the title ‘Things That Go Bump in the Night’.  Here is my entry, didn’t win anything, but I thought I’d share it so that people can read it if they like.

See blow the cut to read, hope you enjoy it. 🙂

 

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1000 words

So way back when I was in school, and then when I was at uni I was often given coursework that had a word count.  I remember finding it really hard at times to meet this word count or to come within 10% of the count. Writing things where I had to make sure I didn’t literally copy from whatever I was using to research, trying to find extra things to add that would answer the question, sometimes when there just didn’t seem that much to add. Oh I’m sure there probably was things I could have added, I’m older and wiser now, but back then, well researching stuff was ‘hard’.  (It’s that whole, don’t really want to do the work thing, you drag your feet, cant be bothered etc)

Now though I’ve started to do more writing, in an attempt to maybe one day write a book and get it published. And I find that when I sit down for a proper writing session then I write about 1500 words in a few hours. And there are times, especially if this has taken me quite a while and I’ve allowed myself to be distracted by internet things like Twitter, when I feel I could have written more and I’m oddly disappointed.  Which is silly, because 1500 words is not to be sniffed at really.  I also like to get quite detailed in my writing, and I’m beginning to notice that I do at times state the obvious, when I could just let the reader infer things (but that’s what editing is for). So I think for stories, I can write quite a lot.

This just means that when I see a writing contest to write something in a 1000 words or less well i’m just a little bit scared. Where once I’d find it hard to hit anywhere near that, now I’m well aware that I could write way to much. It’s quite tense, watching the word count, and wondering every time you’ve written a sentence whether all those words are necessary.  I’d used half my word count just setting everything up! I had to wrap things up almost as soon as it got started. Still I’m 40 words under, and I have time to do a bit of editing. I may well post it, after the competition is done.  🙂

And I think I’ll sign off now… as I’m pretty sure this has been a rather boring blog post!  I’m not sure what has driven me to do a whole post on word counts (I think I just feel the need to make sure I update this on occasion.) At least it isn’t that long!

 

 

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