Sunday, 31 August 2014

Something Useful for 2014 - Exercise No. 7

This month's exercise is one I was set about two decades ago by the wonderful poet and my then writing instructor, Pat Borthwick. Thanks, Pat, for the inspiration.

Choose a colour. Make a list of things that you associate with it it. For example,

Red - lipstick, blood, silk.
Blue - sky, air, calm.
White - cloud, age, daisy.

As you can see, these can be material things, feelings or concepts. List as many things as you can think of.

Now, using your list, all or just some of what you have written, write a short passage. It can be a poem or prose, even dialogue.

Here's my green passage:

Calm. That's how I felt, breathing in the sweet scent of freshly cut grass, my bare feet damp with the newly released sap as I crossed the lawn. 

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Photo Inspiration for August

The new school term starts next week for me and my children, a return to normality, a new normality for my daughter who is entering high school. The weather has turned cold but is sunny enough to allow us to still get out. Recently, we found ourselves at the play park that you can see above.

Play parks are wonderful places. Obviously, they provide a world of entertainment  for children but they're more than that. They're a meeting place for all ages - parents with their children, teenagers with nowhere else to go, and grandparents sharing times with younger generations. 

I took this photo on a random whim and it wasn't until I got home that I realised how much I had captured. Look at the people on the benches. I remember there being a number of teenagers in the park but there were also parents whose children played beyond the reach of my photograph. It was the end of day, hence the placing of the tree's shadow. The play park sits on a busy city road but the stretch of green that hugs the river might as well be in the countryside for the peace it offers.

What do you think the adults are talking about? What are the unseen children talking about and doing? Why are the teenagers there? Who is driving the passing cars? What kind of shops sit across the road? What could happen here?

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Tuesday Choice Words

I love the characters in my novel, whether they're good or bad or somewhere in between. They're individuals with their own way of speaking and their own motivations. Like me, most of them will happily tootle along in the same routine, day to day, year to year. Working out what would make them change, react, break out can be a puzzle.

On Janice Hardy's Fiction University website, there is an article by writer K M Weiland on just this topic - How to Find Your Character's Breaking Point. Have a look.

Monday, 25 August 2014

100 happy days counted and posted

Back in May, I told you that I would be taking part in the 100 happy days challenge. You can find that post here but, to recap this is the challenge:

Take a photograph on each of your 100 days of something that makes you happy, then share your photograph.

I chose to post my photographs on my Tumblr blog, What I see, what I hear, what I am. You can find all 100 on there.

It was an interesting one hundred days, keeping up the discipline of not just photographing something happy, but also taking the time to notice that thing. Some days it was difficult because I was crazy busy or ill. Other days, I had a whole host of happy things to choose from.

It's been a good experience and I find myself still in the habit of looking for happy things. My photographs weren't as exciting as those posted by some of my friends - talking at events, modelling on a catwalk, new shoes - but they were very much me, visual, colourful, warm. Here are a few of my favourites.

Day 1 of my challenge. I stopped on the way to the shops to look up at the trees.
Day 6. My writing makes me happy. It’s hard work sometimes (especially when I’m editing and redrafting) but it satisfies my soul. I’m very lucky to be able to do this for a living.
Day 13. I was putting out the rubbish when I noticed this beautiful blue butterfly. It stayed in the garden for quite a while. I can’t get over how vibrant it’s colour is.
Day 30. This combination of sunlit trees, limestone arches and blue sky made me take a moment this morning. Lovely.
Day 36. I saw this rose on the walk to school. It reminded me of my mum. This was her favourite colour rose. My childhood garden was filled with roses like this.
Day 56. Whenever I see the moon during the day, it always seems a little magical.
Day 69. Eating pistachio nuts while I write.
Day 83. Took my children to a small, local wildlife park today and probably my favourite thing of the day was getting to pet this owl. His name is Bovril.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Tuesday Choice Words

Normally, each week's choice words include a link and an image or video. This week, however, there's just one thing for you to read because of it's length and richness of advice. This infographic appears on the Galleycat site - J R R Tolkien's 10 Tips For Writers. 


Thursday, 14 August 2014

Sadly Giving Up

As I've probably mentioned before, I tend to have several books on the go at one time. There'll be one book on my phone to read when I'm out and about, another on my bedside cabinet, and probably a third in the cavernous handbag I occasionally drag out with me. Sometimes, I'll curl up on the couch and read a fourth - the depravity of it all. I'd love to be one of those ordered people who can read books sequentially, from the first to the last of their year's assigned reading list. I'm not that kind of animal though. I hop about between books daily. Thankfully, I have a good memory so I rarely lose track of each storyline - phew.
I like to think that I'm a good 'judge of character' when it comes to choosing reading material. I'm rarely disappointed by what I choose, even if I skip some parts of the book, and most of my books become happy shelf buddies in my house.

For the last two months, however, I've struggled with a novel. I don't want to say what it is because I've enjoyed non fiction written by this author and the novel in question has obviously been meticulously researched. I can tell that the author loves their characters. I know the plot has elements that appeal to this author's attitude to life. They've expressed how proud they are of this novel. I really wanted to love it too.

But I can't. I struggle with the way the novel has been written, untidy in places, confusing in others. I can't remember ever giving up on a novel in the past so I've persevered with this one, willing it to improve, hoping that I'll find my way through it all. I'm about halfway through and finally, today, I've decided to concede defeat. I just can't read on.

I feel awful. Having read other material by this author - most of their non fiction books sit on my bookshelves - I feel like I'm betraying them, but there are other books on my list that I want to start, and finish this year.

I don't want to criticise this author because that isn't what this blog, or what I am about, so I'll simply put this novel back on my bookshelf unfinished and sadly move on.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Tuesday Choice Words

Now that my novel is going through the final revisions, my mind keeps turning to 'what next'. Manuscript assessment? Agent? Marketing? New website?

One of the fun aspects of this 'what next' stage can be creating a trailer for your book. YA and children's novelist, Kelly Hashway provides a 'how to' on her website - Making A Book Trailer. It's well worth a read and I'll be keeping it in mind for my own novel.

Writers on Writing: Ian McEwan on Finding Confidence 

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Go out and find some inspiration

I don't know about you but I have a contrary muse. Sometimes, she's happy to sit in the house with me. Other times though, she refuses to stay indoors. She sits on the doorstep, shaking her head at my invitations and beckoning me outside. Even then, she may well skip off down the street with me jogging behind. Ok, I don't jog, but I do have to go in search of my muse on occasion.

Sometimes, nature does it for me - the park, the countryside, even my own back garden.

On other occasions, I like the city with its mixture of traffic, footsteps and overheard conversations.

The hubbub of a coffee shop can inspire me. Being surrounded by books in a library or bookshop can do it too.

The point is that on occasion, your creativity needs a change of scenery to fire up. It needs a new kind of input, be it overheard conversation, fresh air or the colours of the high street. More than just adding new inspiration, it can give us a fresh perspective, especially if we're struggling with a plot twist or a character. 

So next time your muse invites you out on a date, go. Drink coffee, stare in shop windows, or skip through a field. Do it. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Tuesday Choice Words

Where do you write? You can usually find me at the dining table with a pad and pen or typing at the computer desk, but occasionally I set up on the couch or in bed. I say 'occasionally' because working away from a chair and table/desk always leads to me developing backache.

In Writers - Be Careful How You Sit, Elizabeth Spann Craig writes about her own health problems caused by sitting in the wrong position to write and her problems with RSI too. It's well worth a read.

Vlogging for Writers: with Leena from justkissmyfrog

Saturday, 2 August 2014

I did it

I finished my novel. I completed the final chapter this morning. Now, all that's needed is the last touch of polish to bring out its sheen and I can begin to submit it to agents.

Wish me luck.