Monday, 27 October 2014

Fingers whizzing across the keyboard...

Lots of questions all wrapped up in one subject this month, so, in keeping with the subject, I'll try to answer as fast as I can.

Speed Writing
How fast do your first drafts go? Do they take you a year? A month?

Honestly it depends on what I'm writing. I've got a whole pile of drafts that haven't ever been finished properly. Mostly these are NaNoWriMo novels where the missing chunks are outlined but I just haven't had the motivation to finish.

When I'm enjoying writing a story then I'd say on average about a month to get the first draft nailed down. The number of stories that progress past that stage is actually very small though, but that's another story!

Is your speed more of a NaNoWriMo style writing or trying to nail down each word perfectly the first time? What suffers because of your speed? 

I don't really change the way I do drafts for NaNoWriMo - I write to try to get down the picture in my head as fast as possible, and if it comes out sounding just right then that's fantastic. Usually it comes out in the form of an outline first, then gets fleshed out into a first draft. I do the same when I'm writing NaNo - the only difference is that I don't delete anything when I'm doing NaNo!

Bonus: What was your shortest novel? Your longest? And what was the main problem in each?

I think my shortest was a children's story that started out as five separate short /stories and then turned into one long one. The main problem with that was that I found I was repeating description a lot. I don't know if that's because I was trying to build wordcount for NaNo, or because I was just seeing the characters with the description first, or if it was because I was thinking I hadn't described them enough, but I really really overdid the description.

The longest is probably one that I'm working on at the moment which is already at 50k and only about half done. I haven't re-read it properly yet to know what problems it has, but I expect I'm find plenty...

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Who likes short shorts? We like short shorts!

Short Stories
Do you write them? Do you hate them? Do you think they're lovely but there's no market for them? For those who wish to be published, many people will tell you that short story publications get your foot in the door. And while that is definitely true, I'm not sure how many people really focus on the short stories. So tell me about your own views on them. Have any been published? Are you looking to publish some?

I love reading and writing short stories - I would say 75% of the stories I write are shorts or flash. I like the challenge of creating a well fleshed out character and making a fully fledged story in a limited amount of words, and there's so much that you learn from short stories that you can then transfer into novels to make them better.

I haven't had any shorts published yet but I'm looking to do so. I've got a little pile of shorts at various stages of editing that are waiting for me to get back to them ready to submit somewhere.

Bonus: What is your favorite magazine/anthology of short stories? Send us a picture of the cover! (Especially if you have a favorite issue.)

I suppose my favourite magazine would have to be the People's Friend. My grandma used to get it regularly and I would look at the children's pages, and now my mum gets them occasionally and leaves them in the bathroom for reading when you're, ahem, 'sitting down'... I like that the stories are inoffensive and generally feel-good, and that you get all sorts of stories in one issue.

I like anthology story books as well, and the best one I read recently was Other Worlds, a collection of 10 YA sci-fi/fantasy stories by Rick Riordan, Shaun Tan, Tom Angleberger, Ray Bradbury and others.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Don't step over that line!

With horror writing abounding over in Zombie July, let's talk about our own writing limits.

What will you absolutely not write no matter what? Even if the story tends to lead toward it. And where do you put your foot down in your genre? Do you write fantasy but not darker than a medium shade of grey? Do you write erotica and rape is not acceptable to you? Let us know your reasons why!

I will write violence to a certain extent but not go into graphic detail about anything. Unless it's essential to the story I'd rather leave it before the violence starts with the hint that it's going to happen. I think that's pretty much my limit in any genre with any type of violence.

The reason is just that I don't really like writing extreme violence and I don't think I could do it justice anyway, so I'd rather go with the Blair Witch effect and hint at things rather than showing them. I think the reader's imagination is likely to come up with much more interesting things than anything I could put on paper in that respect.

Bonus: For fun, what genre will you never ever ever write?

Easy question - I will never write horror or erotica. I don't like reading them and I can't imagine ever wanting to write them either.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

But what does he look like? - WriYe

How much is too much for you? How little is too little? How do you find your happy medium? What must you describe about every character when you write?

I don't think I've mastered description yet. If anything I tend to do too much description, tossing it in all over the place - 'she shook her head, her brown curls falling into her face' or 'her blue eyes took in the forest scene with its lush green leaves and red and yellow wildflowers' type of thing. Possibly not quite to that extant though...

I always at some point include hair colour and general body type/size/height because I like to know what characters I read about are like, so I want to include information I look for in stories. That wouldn't be 'he's 6ft tall with short spiky black hair and a toned body' though, it's more likely to be dropping his hair colour in at one point and later mentioning his height compared to, say, a shelf he's reaching something off, or a small child who's talking to him.

Body type can be slotted in at any point - a woman not being able to make her hands meet while giving a friend a hug, or someone calling an insult to someone (stick insect or fatty, maybe) or describing the type of thing that person does for fun. Someone who spends all his time in fast food restaurants is likely to have a very different body type to someone who's a member of a running club.

What's the worst way to use and/or reveal character descriptions?

The worse way is when you get paragraphs of description with nothing to move the story forward at all. I try to avoid that! The second worse way is the 'looking in a mirror' technique, or the variation 'another character looking at him/her'.

How much of the scenery do you put into your novel and why?

I like to include scenery if it's relevant, but it not I just like to set the scene. If someone is in a train station you can have the noise of a train pulling interrupting a phone call and that's all you need to include, but if someone is meeting underneath a clock at the railway station you might want to add detail as the person searches for the clock - because in that instance, it might add to the tension as the person tries to find the clock in time.

Bonus: A picture is worth a thousand words... Draw us your main character!

I can't draw people very well, and I especially can't get people to turn out the way I imagine them in my head. I usually do internet searched to find a picture of someone who looks like how I imagine my main characters. This is the picture I found for Dawn Bell, the main character in my July Camp NaNoWriMo novel.

Judging a book by its cover

My favourite book cover is The Host by Stephanie Meyer. You can't tell properly in this picture, but the white ring around the pupil of the eye is metallic silver.

I love that they used a very simple image but put so much thought into it - in the story (and this isn't a spoiler) you can tell the aliens because their eyes shine silver when you shine a light at them.

I picked up this book a few years ago partly because I'd read the Twilight books and enjoyed them, and partly because I really liked the cover of this book.

What's your favourite book cover?

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Software decisions - WriYe

What do you use to write? Do you shift between software for different parts of writing: planning, writing, editing, etc?

This one's easy - I use Microsoft Word most of the time because I tend to colour code my writing - red for ideas, green for outlines, blue for bits of text I've taken from somewhere else that have given me an idea, etc. I use Notepad as well sometimes when I just want to write without distractions, like when I'm word warring, have an idea I want to get out or am using a prompt to do some freewriting. I have tried Liquid Story Binder and I quite liked it, but not enough to pay for the full version.

I do most of my editing in Word as well, although I do print out everything before every big edit so I can mark up bits to change, highlight, scribble out and generally scrawl all over the draft before I make any changes on the computer.

What do you use to supplement your writing? Music? TV in the background? YouTube channels?

I like to write to music and give my story a soundtrack. I can't write with TV in the background because I get distracted, but I will put on CDs or, more usually, make a GrooveShark or YouTube playlist especially for the story. I use choosing a soundtrack as part of my character profiles too, deciding what sort of music they would like and what they'd be listening to in their everyday lives before I set dragons and/or aliens loose on them!

Bonus: Give us a screenshot of you mid-writing. Seriously. Pause, snap, post.

This is the planning stages of my Camp NaNo novel. I'm using a 100 words prompt for chapter titles and under each one I'm outlining what's going to happen in that chapter. I doubt I'm going to use all 100 prompts, but I find them useful to give me ideas when I'm not sure what to throw in next.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Who encouraged your writing?

In a newsletter I get from NaNoWriMo Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, asked - "Who encouraged your writing when you were a kid? For me, it was a teacher named Judy Barnes. Back in 1991, Mrs. Barnes read a story I wrote in front of the whole class, and I can still feel the glow from that moment today. Her single act of encouragement changed the course of my life."

I thought I'd post a bit about the people who encouraged me when I was a kid. All three are teachers actually, which goes to show a good teacher is never forgotten.

The first two were both teachers at my middle school (junior school), Mr Wheeler and Mr Hanrahan. Back in about 1990, in Mr Wheeler's class one term he set us the task of writing a 'novel'. We had the sort of exercise books with a lined page then a plain page, and we had to write a story during the term, with pictures, to fill the book. I write a story about my two pet cats, Smudge and Vicky, an evil ice queen who liked to eat cats and a helpful griffin. There were a few pages left at the end so I wrote a poem about the story to fill the gaps.

Mr Hanrahan happened to read the poem and said it would look good if I typed it up, so he got me some time on a computer (we only had about two in the whole school!) and I typed it in, then he suggested I should read it out in the 'good news assembly'.

Smudge and Vicky's Adventure was the first story I can remember writing, and the encouragement from the two teachers that it was a good story and that it was worth sharing was really exciting.

The third teacher was Miss D'Auban, who I've mentioned before. For the first creative writing project I did in her class, in about 1993, she gave me an A and then announced to the class that only one person got an A. She then went on to give me lots of useful bits of advice by asking lots of questions which made me think about what I was writing. I've always been grateful to her for all the advice and comments she gave me over the years.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Genre - Wriye Circle

April - And we've made it through editing! So let's shift to something more fun... Genre

• What is your main genre?

Childrens/young adult fantasy. Usually that fantasy is grounded in the real world somehow, like a normal boy finding a troll in his locker one day, or a girl suddenly finding she can fly, or what if that man rode a dragon instead of driving a car? I do like to go completely fantastic sometimes though, and create a whole new world where faeries live alongside pixies, and gnomes build the best damn dams in the country.

• How has it evolved for you in the past few years and how do you think it will evolve further - both in your own writing style and in the publishing field overall?

To start with I would just write a story that I enjoyed writing, and while the content would be suitable for younger readers, the characters might be too old or the language I used might be too complicated. I think I've got better at creating characters that do what I want them to do but aren't too old for the audience I'm trying to write to.

Digressing for a moment, I read somewhere that children always want to be older, so they'll happily read about a main character a few years older than themselves, but they've still got to be someone they can relate to. A 13-year-old might like to read about a 17-year-old but he's going to find it more difficult to a 21-year-old because that character's life will be outside the 13-year-old's easy frame of reference, eg, he's left school, he goes to pubs, he might have a full-time job or be at uni. The 17-year-old will have more in common - probably still at school dealing with teachers and parents but wanting more freedom, might have a part-time job but mostly likes hanging out with his friends when he's not in school.

I don't know how my writing style will change, but I'm not going to try to push it in any particular direction. As to the publishing field, I think characters will continue to evolve but will in most ways stay the same as they've ever been - heroic, extraordinary, good beating bad, etc.

• Is there any genre you think blends easily with your niche? Or maybe you write in one that hasn't really emerged yet.

Childrens/YA blends with pretty much any genre as long as it's not too violent or sexual I think. (I would have issues describing The Hunger Games as a children's book for this reason.) The fantasy touches my stories generally seem to have would blend well with sci-fi, and I have dabbled in that and quite often try to explain some of the fantasy elements through science.

• Bonus: Doodle us something that describes your main genre to a T. (Like hearts for romance. But you can't take that now. Haha.)

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

#Bookaday book recommendations

A new post-a-day type challenge that's supposed to run throughout June, but since I only just found it, it will probably go through June and July!

1 - My Favourite Children's Books (an old blog post, but it answers the question)
2 -
3 -
4 -
5 -
6 - Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
7 -
8 -
9 -
10 -
11 -
12 -
13 -
14 -
15 -
16 -
17 -
18 -
19 -
20 - The Host by Stephanie Meyer
21 -
22 -
23 - Lord of the Flies and Macbeth. Hated Lord of the Flies but I really enjoyed Macbeth.
24 - Enid Blyton. She gets a lot of stick, but the stories were interesting to read and a lot of fun, and they made me want to read more.
25 - Lord of the Rings - Return of the King. Seriously, how many times does a book need to end before it actually ends?
26 -
27 -
28 -
29 -
30 -

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Book review - Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall

Alice has pink hair, a famous spaceship-flying mum, a laser-shooting goldfish as a teacher and she's being chased by invisible aliens. She's also been evacuated to Mars where she and a few hundred other kids will be trained up as the next generation of spaceship-flying alien killers. Along with nerdy Josephine, animal-loving Noel and his rebellious big brother Carl, and the goldfish, Alice finds herself with the minor challenge of having to save the whole galaxy before it gets eaten.

Sophia McDougall has created a fascinating world on a realistically terraformed Mars so that even the nerdiest kid should be able to enjoy the story without picking holes in the science.

I loved the fact that the main characters were British and Australian, not American, and the way the four main characters interacted. There are touches of lots of different genres and other stories - a bit of Lord of the Flies, Star Trek, your typical space shoot-em-up, and a bit of mystery thrown in along the way, along with some toilet humour which should make the boys laugh and girls react much like Alice does - eeeewww!

The book is the first in a new series, but it works really well as a standalone book and would be a great one to pack to take on holiday. It's aimed at boys and girls aged nine and over, and would make a fun, light read for anyone who enjoys children's fiction.
  • Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall
  • RRP £9.99 (paperback)
  • Published by Egmont
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405268677

Monday, 21 April 2014

R is for Reading

As you know if you've been following my blog, I'm on a big reading drive at the moment. My favourite genre to read is YA, although whether that's because I like to write YA, or whether I like to write YA because I like to read it, I don't know.

I've always heard you should read lots to be able to write well, so I think regardless of which way around the above is (does that sentence even make sense?!) the things I choose to read do influence the way I write - the language used, the style of writing, the subject matter, and so on. I don't generally read 'real life' stories, they always have some sort of fantasy/sci-fi in them, and that's what I write.

What do you like to read and does it influence your writing?

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Q is for Quick sessions

One of the biggest problems I have is finding time to write around work, meetings, family, hobbies, etc. I often find I only have half an hour to actually sit down and write, and then I think 'well I can't do anything in that time' so I end up just researching (ie, browsing the web...) or doing character profiles for characters that never find themselves in a story.

Something I need to do is to get myself in gear for writing in quick bursts. When I do word wars I know I'm perfectly capable of writing 1,000 words in half an hour, but when it's just me and the blank screen, somehow I can't motivate myself.

So I have a question today - does anyone know of a really active forum or chat room for word wars so I can get motivated and war against other people and not just against myself?

Friday, 18 April 2014

P is for Plans

After two years of not writing as much as I'd hoped to at all I'm a bit wary of setting too many firm plans now for fear of disappointing myself...

However, I do find that I write better when I have something definite to aim for...

I think this is one of the reasons I enjoy NaNoWriMo so much - it's got a daily goal to aim for as well as a longer-term plan. When it's not November though, I have to set my own targets, and I find it much more difficult to keep writing. This ties in with tomorrow's post on Quick sessions...

Has anyone got any tips for reaching goals?

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

N is for Names

I really love naming characters, finding the right name for their personality or something that has a meaning that fits well or is suitably ironic.

One of my favourite websites for finding suitable names is - it lists names by country, by popularity in different decades, by gender, and has a section of lists for specific types of people like tomboys, princesses, aristocrats or cowpokes!

If, for example, I'm writing about a teenage girl who's just discovered she's a witch, I can search the list of popular names in the 1990s and see the basic meanings of all the names. Jennifer means 'woman of white magic', which seems appropriate, and it also offers suggestions for similar names like Jenna and tells you where the name originates from - in this case, from Guinevere, the wife of King Arthur.

Have you got any favourite name websites?

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

M is for Missing punctuation

I'm a big fan of punctuation, so things like apostrophes going missing or finding themselves in the wrong place annoys me greatly.

A quick guide to apostrophes:
  • Plurals don't need apostrophes. (ie. He took his dog's for a walk would be wrong. He should take his dogs for a walk instead.)
  • Apostrophes go anywhere you take out a letter. (ie. In don't the apostrophe is there instead of the o in do not.)
  • If something belongs to someone, then it should have an apostrophe. (ie. He dropped his dog's lead and the mutt ran away.)
  • You can end a word with an apostrophe if it's got a letter missing or it's a plural possessive! (ie. Jesus' disciples, because it's very confusing to say Jesus's, or he dropped the dogs' leads and they all ran away.)
If, like me, you love punctuation and have been known to deface menus or other badly punctuated missives, or you want to know more about how to use punctuation, I highly recommend Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss. It's amazing :)

Monday, 14 April 2014

L is for Limits

On a forum I use someone posed the question You're only allowed to write about one set of characters for the rest of the year. Which characters (your own or someone else's) would you write about?

It made me think about setting limits for writing. What about if I could only choose one place to set a story? Or one time of day? One type of weather? One room? One emotion?

Two years ago I was really into writing flash fiction, but that's fallen off recently. Today my challenge is to use a couple of the ideas above to write some flash fiction - a complete, short, one-scene story with a limited setting.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

K is for Knowing

I remember when I was at school we had to write a story that conveyed an emotion. I wrote about a woman who was scared as she climbed over a wall and was about to break in to a house. I thought I'd done a good job with it but I got a lower grade for the piece that I'd hoped for, so I went to talk to the teacher about it afterwards.

She asked me very simply, 'what is she doing there'?

In concentrating on describing the emotion in the piece I'd completely left out any reason for the character to be doing what she was doing, and that made the piece unsatisfactory.

I knew when I was writing that the woman was a private investigator and she was breaking in to the house of a vicious crook to get evidence against him. It was one of her first cases and she was scared because she hadn't done anything like that before, and knew that if she got caught then she would probably be killed.

The problem was, I hadn't included any of that back story in what I'd written, so the reader didn't know anything about the character's motivation or why she was pushing herself to do something that was making her scared. Of course, if I'd put everything in then it would have been a whole lot of telling and still not a very good piece, so what I should have done was just drop a few hints about some things, maybe have the character remember something about the owner of the house while she was sneaking in, and let the reader fill in just a few of the gaps, rather than having to make up their own reason why the woman was breaking in.

So K is for knowing - how much we know as writers and how much of that information we pass on to readers, and at what points and in what way, can make a huge difference to how enjoyable a story is.

Also, on the off-chance that my English teacher Miss D'Auban, is reading this, thank you for the good advice :)

• Challenge - who has given you good advice? Share it with someone else!

Friday, 11 April 2014

J is for JanNoWriMo and other writing challenges

My writing really got a kickstart when I discovered NaNoWriMo about 10 years ago. I find that I write much more when I have a daily challenge to set myself, but that it's easier when other people are trying to meet the same goal as well.

There's a huge list of monthly challenges on Wikipedia (here) but some of my favourites are:
  • NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month - every November, write 50,000 words in November
  • April Fools - Set your own target and write that target in April
  • FAWM - February Album Writing Month
  • Camp NaNoWriMo - Like NaNoWriMo but happens twice during the summer and you can set your own target
  • JanNoWriMo - Write 50,000 words in January

And Blogging from A-Z is another one :)

What's your favourite monthly challenge?

Thursday, 10 April 2014

I is for Imagination

Imagination is a wonderful thing, although I'm a bit worried about where mine takes me sometimes! I've always loved exploring what ifs and making things up in my head.

I can't remember at what point it progressed from let's pretend where I was the person everything was happening to in to imagining things happening to other people and characters, but I know it's something I've always loved doing, from playing Robin Hood as a little girl, re-imagining an ending to a Star Trek episode I didn't like as a teenager, and now making up all sorts of weird and wonderful situations in my spare time.

What was your favourite imagining?

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

H is for Harry Potter

...and for Twilight, and Star Trek, and Sherlock Holmes and My Little Pony, and dozens more.

Today's post is about fanfiction. I think almost everyone I know who's tried writing stories has played with fanfiction at some point. A really good article I found (here - definitely worth a read!) picked up on one of the points that people often think fanfiction is not very good.

In my opinion there are several issues with this statement. First, fanfiction might be someone's first try at writing a story for someone else to read, so it stands to reason that it won't be as polished and perfect as a published, edited story.

Second, with fanfiction people have a fixed view in their heads before they read the story of what the characters are like, and so if the character does something that doesn't match those views, then of course it must be wrong. [/sarcasm] The thing is, I know several stories where I've read something that I've thought is wrong for the character, but because it's been done by the actual author and not a fanfic writer then I have to accept it. Fanfic writers don't have that luxury.

Third, most people who write fanfic do it primarily for their own entertainment, and so as long as they enjoy it, they don't really worry about it meeting other people's expectations of standards.

A final word pinched from Lev Grossman in TIME in 2011:
"They don't do it for money. That's not what it's about. The writers write it and put it up online just for the satisfaction. They're fans, but they're not silent, couch-bound consumers of media. The culture talks to them, and they talk back to the culture in its own language."

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

G is for Genre (Also WriYe blog post)

What is your main genre?

Usually YA/fantasy/adventure. I don't do horror, I'm not very good at romance, I can't think of interesting mainstream plots and I get far too bogged down in researching if I try to do historical fiction.

How has it evolved for you in the past few years and how do you think it will evolve further - both in your own writing style and in the publishing field overall?

I think YA is more accepted as a genre in its own right now than it used to be, and I think the boundaries of what YA is have been pushed back. Think how gory some of The Hunger Games is and compare it to stories like What Katy Did or Peter Pan. My writing style hasn't really changed aside from (hopefully) getting better, because I've never really tried to fit into a genre, I've just written what I like.

Is there any genre you think blends easily with your niche?

I think any genre blends with YA. Personally I like writing it because I can tell a story without having to swear, go into graphic detail, or get too involved with gore/sex/violence. It makes me sound a bit like a cop out, but I like telling stories that I could tell to my Brownies or my niece and that wouldn't make my Mum blush ;-)

Bonus: Doodle us something that describes your main genre to a T.

Doodle to follow later...

• Challenge for the day is for you to doodle your genre as well!

Monday, 7 April 2014

F is for Forums

A very short post today, sorry...

I find writing forums can be really helpful for inspiration, support and somewhere to talk to people who don't think you're crazy for wanting to spend all your free time inside your own head.

My favourite forum is WriYe, but I like the NaNoWriMo boards as well, especially when they get really busy from October to December.

• Challenge for today - if you don't already visit writing forums, visit one and see what they're about. If you do visit forums, try a thread you've never visited before.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

E is for E-books

When I got my phone it came with Kindle on it, so I bought a couple of e-books just to give myself something to read if I found myself stuck with a few minutes to kill. I found I was using it quite a lot, although the mobile screen was a bit small and I was very aware that it looked like I was playing with my phone when I was reading.

Last year a friend offered me a Kindle that she'd bought by mistake. I bought it from her thinking I'd use the Kindle for work to type things up and email them. Of course I knew I'd have my e-books on there, but I didn't think I'd actually use the Kindle for reading very much.

I was very, very wrong!

I had maybe 10 books on my phone, including the free ones. Now I've got about 50. It's meant I have much more chance to read. I find myself picking up the Kindle to read in breaks, sitting on the sofa at home, while I'm cooking, in bed... the only place I don't read my Kindle that I would read a paper book is in the bath - paper dries easier than electronics!

• Challenge for the day - what are your thoughts on e-books? Love them or hate them?

I'm going to be away for the next week, so my posts may be a bit sporadic. I will catch them all up!

Friday, 4 April 2014

D is for Datastick

You'll have heard this one before, I'm sure, but always back up your stories. Preferably twice, and in different places.

I wrote a 50,000 word draft during NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago that I was really quite pleased with and was looking forward to refining. I'd even managed to rack up a 10k day while I was writing it - something I'd never done before ever!

I'd got it safely on a memory stick, but then disaster struck - the memory stick broke! It wasn't corrupted, and as far as I know all the data is still on it, but two of the connections inside broke free of the board and I can't get it to work. I even took it to a computer shop and asked them if it could be fixed, but they said no.

So I've now learned from bitter experience that if I write something that I want to keep, back it up. Save it on a hard drive and on a memory stick and on something like Dropbox or Googledrive. Failing that, just emailing it to myself is better than nothing. But always back up!

• Challenge for today - back up whatever you're working on!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

C is for Characters

This year I've tried a new method of creating characters and keeping track of characters I've come up with

Some of my characters pop into my head complete with a story to tell, but others just appear without anything interesting to say, although they seem like they might have potential.

My method for keeping track of them used to be to write down everything I knew about them in a word file on the computer, along with a picture if I could find one that seemed right (I do worry sometimes about what people would make of some of my internet searches, like 'teenage boys' or 'girl on the beach'). The problem with that method was that it wasn't very easy to flip through to get ideas. A lot of these character ideas don't have names, so they'd be filed under 'blond athlete' or 'grumpy housewife', so if I was looking for a particular character then the system might work, but it wasn't so good for just browsing to get ideas for a story.

This year I decided to start a diary where I would do some freewriting every day. That's now turned into a character diary, where I jot down ideas about a new character every day. If I want to find a picture to go with an idea then I print it out and stick it in, and it's a lot easier to pick up a book and flick through the pages than to open dozens of word files. I can take the diary with me as well because it fits in my handbag, so if I get an idea on the bus I can jot it down.

Pic to follow...

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

B is for BICFOK

No, I'm not swearing at you! BICFOK is Bum In Chair, Fingers On Keys - also known as BICHOK (hands, not fingers, on keys) - is a tried and tested way of getting words written!

Okay, I'm being silly, but really it does work. You're not going to write anything by procrastinating or by doing something else while you think about your story. Even if the first 100 words (or 1,000 words!) are nonsense or entirely unrelated to what you actually want to write, by starting writing at least you're getting something down, and you never know where it's going to go from there.

I used to use the 750 Words website to get me writing - you sign up to write 750 words a day and it sends you reminders to do it every day. I'd find I was writing about things I wouldn't have thought about writing about before - one day I write about the colour green, the next day it was about the weather, another day there was a boy setting fire to things. All these things weren't really useable in the sense of being read by anyone else, but they gave me practice at describing things and setting scenes which I wouldn't have had if I hadn't BICFOK'ed.

• Challenge for today - BICFOK for 15 minutes and see where it takes you!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

A is for Author

I am technically an author - I've written poems and a guide book for a church which have both been published by other people.

I've also dabbled in self-publication, but while it's nice to see my book in print there's something different about having someone else believe your work is good enough that you deserve the title of author.

When someone asks me why I write, I've got several answers - I like it, I have lots of stories inside my head that I'd like to write down, I want to share something, and I want to see my name in print. That last bit sounds a bit egotistical, but I don't think you can be an author without having a bit of an ego - if you didn't, you wouldn't want to show other people your work.

A is also for Arlee Bird, who set up the Blogging from A-Z in April challenge. Thanks Arlee!

•  Challenge - post a comment about what you think makes you an author. Do you agree with my ideas? What makes you want to write?

Monday, 31 March 2014

Blogging A-Z in April 2014

Last April I completed the Blogging A-Z challenge. It was a lot of fun, a definite challenge, and got me thinking more about how and why I write, and so this year I'm going to do the challenge again.

The idea is to write a blog a day (except for Sundays), each one on a theme starting with a different letter of the alphabet.

The posts will all be linked here once they're written:

April 1 - A - Author
April 2 - B - BICFOK
April 3 - C - Characters
April 4 - D - Datastick
April 5 - E - E-books
April 7 - F - Forums
April 8 - G - Genre
April 9 - H - Harry Potter
April 10 - I - Imagination
April 11 - J - JanNoWriMo and other writing challenges
April 12 - K - Knowing
April 14 - L -Limits
April 15 - M - Missing punctuation
April 16 - N - Names
April 17 - O - OctoOctober
April 18 - P - Plans
April 19 - Q - Quick sessions
April 21 - R - Reading
April 22 - S - Seasons
April 23 - T - Thief
April 24 - U -
April 25 - V - Villains
April 26 - W - Witness
April 28 - X -
April 29 - Y -
April 30 - Z -

Friday, 28 March 2014

WriYe - The frustration of editing

Back to one of my least favourite subjects for this month's WriYe blog prompt. It's not that I can't edit - I like to think I'm pretty good at picking up on things like grammar/spelling/punctuation mistakes and continuity problems. My problem is that once I find a problem and start to fix it, I find it creates even more problems and starts turning into an ongoing saga of fixing things.

Now that we've had some planning and some character development under way, let's look at the other end of the spectrum. Editing! Sorry about the repeating but it is something we writers have to think about all the time.

What is your favorite method of editing? Do you print it all out and paint it red? Do you use a computer program like Scrivener or Liquid Story Binder to arrange things? Or maybe you just trash the first draft and try it all over again?

Depending on what the story is, usually I print it out an scribble all over it, then go back to the computer and fix the bits I picked up on, then repeat the process until I'm happy with it. I find that's a good way of dealing with particularly short stories, but with novels I have to deal with it in smaller chunks, usually a couple of chapters at a time. The
problem with that is that then I have to be really careful that my continuity is still alright, and that something I've rewritten towards the end of the process still has the same 'voice' as the bits I started with.

I know it's always better after editing, but I do find the process very tedious and frustrating!

What do you find the most in your editing? Are you a repeated-word-abuser? A comma-phile? Or maybe your grammar just ain't no good?

Because a lot of my longer stories seem to come from things like NaNoWriMo I find that they tend to have a lot of word padding going on. I gave a draft to my brother to read of one story, and one of his first comments was "so she's got curly red hair then". Apparently almost every time I'd mentioned that particular character I'd mentioned her hair...

On the subject of editing, this post by WestBow Press gives really good advice.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Books I've read

I decided to start a list of books I've read recently. I'm doing the 101 in 1001 challenge, and as part of that I'm aiming to read 101 books in 1001 days. This is basically a big list of books with links if I've done a review on this blog. Titles in green were hard copy editions, everything in black I read on my Kindle.

February 2014:
1. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
2. Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
3. Percy Jackson and the Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan
4. Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan

March 2014:
5. Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
6. Heroes of Olympus: The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
7. Heroes of Olympus: The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
8. Heroes of Olympus: The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

9. Heroes of Olympus: The House of Hades by Rick Riordan
10. The Demigod Files by Rick Riordan
11. The Demigod Diaries by Rick Riordan

April 2014:
12. Down and Out in Beverly Heels by Kathryn Leigh Scott
13. Son of Sobek by Rick Riordan
14. Staff of Serapis by Rick Riodan
15. Dark Passages by Kathryn Leigh Scott

May 2014: 
16. Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall - review
17. Other Worlds - 10 amazing fantasy stories by Rick Riordan and others

 June 2014
18. Playing the Odds by Nora Roberts
19. The Blue by Stephanie Void
20. Across the Universe with a Giant Housecat by Stephanie Void
21. Formula for a Galactic Conquest by Stephanie Void

July 2014
22. Music of the Spheres by Stephanie Void
23. Halfway by Stephanie Void
24. Wanderer's Shadow by Stephanie Void
25. Running from Secrets by Stephanie Void

I forgot to update this list throughout the last half of 2014 and 2015... oops... On to 2016!

March/April 2016
26. Divergent by Veronica Roth
27. Insurgent by Veronica Roth
28. Allegiant by Veronica Roth
29. Four by Veronica Roth - review of all four Divergent books
30. The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan - review
31. Jinxed by by Kathryn Leigh Scott

May/June 2016

32.The Siren by Kiera Cass - review

July/August 2016

33. The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts by Annie Darling - review


In progress and may never be finished...
Silence by Natasha Preston (in progress)
Twenty Eight and a Half Reasons by Denise Grover Swank (in progress)



Review - What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton

The easier way to describe this is as a book of book reviews, but it's much more than that. Jo Walton' s love of sci-fi and fantasy was clear in her award-winning novel Among Others, and this book expands on the brief discussions of those authors and stories. Walton's excitement for the genre and for books in general leaps of the pages as she works her way through topics ranging from different uses of time travel and genre, to old classics and Walton' s own guilty sci-fi pleasures.

Works by Ursula K Le Guin and Salmon Rushdie are talked about alongside lesser known authors, and with more than 130 reviews of varying lengths the book is perfect for dipping into in a spare 10 minutes. If you need a recommendation to help choose another book to read, Walton is never short on suggestions, and she is careful to warn readers about spoilers when she talks about plots.

The book is compiled of a selection of the hundreds of blog posts made by Walton on over the past five years, meaning the entries are easily digested while still being entertaining and packing ideas, thoughts, praise and questions into each short piece.
  • What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton
  • RRP £25 (hardcover), £8.99 (Kindle)
  • Published by Corsair
  • ISBN 0765331934

Friday, 7 February 2014

WriYe - Character Relationships

How hard is it for you to create character relationships? Do you pre-plan them or do you end up letting them develop as the novel goes on? Have your characters betrayed you and paired up with someone you didn't expect?
My relationships in stories tend to be pre-planned in the first plotting stage. For example, in Thief I knew that Dawn would have a boyfriend that she'd leave behind when she ran away and he'd come after her. I knew Lois's parents were married happily and that she didn't have a boyfriend. I knew that both Callahan sisters were flirts but that there were no serious relationships going on (and it would take a very dedicated man to have a relationship with Morgan when she turns into a man herself every so often...)

I've never had a character do something completely unexpected with regards to relationships, although occasionally they will say something which then makes me think they could do with a pairing somewhere.

Give us the story of how your favorite written characters got together and what makes their relationships strongest.
I honestly can't think of any! I don't really write romance, and the relationships that are in my stories tend to be pre-existing without any back story to them. I suppose if I had to choose, I'd say Lois's parents in Witness. I have no idea how they got together, but they complement each other very well - she's soft and comforting and he's practical and full of useful (useless?!) advice. They also foster kids and still manage to raise Lois as a fairly normal teenager. I think I really should flesh out their characters and back story more in a short story some time...

Bonus: Give us a picture of your planning process when it comes to characters!

This is a kitten randomly booping a dog on the nose. My character relationship planning is often rather like this - it just suddenly happens. I'll suddenly think of a character and then realise they need a significant other, or evil ex, or a crush, or someone else to make them more of a fully rounded character.

Monday, 20 January 2014

WriYe - Planning part 2

The bonus challenge: Show us a screenshot, picture, or draw us something that represents you planning! So for you pantsers, I expect some funny stuff.

Okay, so here's a screenshot of my latest work in progress. (I don't usually write with this many pages on view, but I wanted to show all the different things I do.)

The different parts are colour coded; black is the story I've written so far, red is bits that are ideas that need fleshing out, blue is background research and purple is a list of characters with very short descriptions. I keep my longer character profiles in a different file.

I often have pictures in my documents while I'm writing as well to give me ideas and help me keep an ideas of who my character is in my head. In this case I'd been writing about Martha Pemberton, the heroine of a story set in the Regency period.

WriYe planning part 1

WriYe - Planning part 1

What's your favorite planning method? Do you prefer to plot by hand or use the computer? What part of planning do you hate the absolute most? Or do you hate all of planning and you'd rather pants your novels? Why?

Sometimes I will go off without a master plan... Actually quite often I go off without a master plan... But usually I'll have some sort of plan even if it's just a very basic outline of a character and a challenge for them to overcome.

I actually really enjoy the planning stage and find that because of the way I go about it, it usually merges very easily into the writing of the story. I don't usually use paper notes and I haven't really got my head around the specialist story-writing software, so most of my planning is done in Word, which is where I write the vast majority of my stories. I start with an idea, then flesh that out a bit, then take each bit of that and flesh that out, and usually while I'm doing that I'll write one or two scenes that jump out at me. When I'm developing characters I usually find myself writing a scene as well so that I get their voice fixed in my head. The scene might not make it into the finished story, but quite often at least some bits of it do.

So the short answer is I love planning, there's nothing about it I hate, and although sometimes I do pants it, I'm much more of a planner.

WriYe - Planning part 2

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

WriYe - Seasonal stories

Everyone has their favorite: the heat of summer, the beauty of spring, the cool winds of autumn or the quiet frozen landscapes of winter. And because we have our favorite, we most likely have a set of favorite things we do during those seasons. But how does that affect your writing? Do you write more during your favorite season, or do you prefer to do things that are not related to writing?

I love autumn - swishing leaves, the gorgeous colours,seeing the sunrise without having to get up at silly o'clock, the crispness in the air without it being too cold, and the excuse to wear boots with skirts! I love winter, too, especially when it has been or is snowing. There's something about frosty mornings that's very exciting, and noticing that the light coming through the curtains is just that bit brighter than usual, hinting that just maybe it's snowed overnight. But I think, just about, that my favourite season is autumn.

I like writing about autumn as well, and I find that most of my favourite scenes that I write are set in autumn, although that's only something I realised when I was thinking about seasons to write this blog post.

I don't know if I write more in the autumn - I think I tend to write most in the winter, but that may be because of NaNoWriMo acting as an incentive. The rest of the year my writing seems to plod along quite steadily with increased spurts of activity if I start something that really catches my imagination.