Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Through the dead days.

These days between Christmas and New Year always feel a bit dead to me, maybe it's the fact the holiday spirit from Christmas has gone and I'm just counting down till New Year is over and things start back up again. So I figured now is a good time to look back over the year and see what's happened.

Basically, I trunked one idea and started work on another.
I took a break from writing and came back to it with a fresh idea that I put a lot of work into. I did quite a bit of planning and then wrote most of the first draft during NaNoWriMo which was a lot of fun this year. I also started posting to this blog more regularly and brought in a video blog.
Oh, and I got married.

It doesn't seem like much, does it? I'm hoping next year will be better writing wise not that I'm more into the swing of it and am so close to the editing stage. Plus I'm reading a lot more now so that should hopefully help push me to improve as well. I'll post at the start of January about my writerly plans for the year.

Speaking of reading, I was given 4 books for Christmas this year then blew most of my Christmas money on another 16 from Amazon. Would you like to see the list? Yes? Okay then.

For Christmas my awesome husband bought me Zombies vs Unicorns which is a collection of short stories on the subject of each and has some awesome writing in it from some amazing YA writers. My brother took a different book and bought me two Lolcats books (I Can Haz Cheeseburger and How to Take Over Teh Wurld) as well as the Lolcats Bible, while I'm amused by them, I think this is an odd progression from the Manga Shakespeare of last year.

I then sat a few days ago and went through my wish list (150+ books) and selected a few to buy with Christmas money, so arriving over the next few weeks I have:

Matched by Allie Condie
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Of Mice and Men by John Stienbeck
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Bridge To Terabithia by Kathrine Paterson
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

As you can possibly tell, I'm not just trying to get the latest and greatest books, I'm trying to build up my library as well. So if I fail at everything else you can at the very least expect book reviews from me for a while in the new year as I work my way through my pile. I'm going to be aiming at a book a week for next year so my list above should keep me going for a few months.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

This Star Won't Go Out

Today in the mail I got to bright green silicone wrist bands, each printed with the words "This Star Won't Go Out". I've put them at the top of our Christmas tree where most people put a fairy or a star.

"This Star Won't Go Out" refers to a foundation set up by parent's of Esther Earl, a 16 year old who lost her 4 year battle with thyroid cancer in August this year. This year, as I'm preparing for my first Christmas with my in-laws, Esther's family and friend's are preaping for thier first Christmas without her and so I would like to take a few moments to introduce you to Esther.

I never knew Esther; I knew of her, I knew of her reputation, but I didn't know her personally. And yet, she is still a huge inspiration to me.

I tried writing more after this but failed so here is a selection of videos and links:

Esther's YouTube
Something Esther inspired
John Green announcing her death.
Esther tribute 1
Esther tribute 2
Esther tribute 3
P4A "This Star Won't Go Out"
This Star Won't Go Out Foundation web site

Normal blogs and hopefully videos will resume after New Year

Friday, 3 December 2010

Oh we who are at the mercy of the voices in our heads.

Standing in the shower yesterday and I got hit by a wave of inspiration, what followed was 10 minutes of me arguing with my brain. I shall relay that conversation for you here.

Sensible Brain in bold
Silly Brain in itallics

"My mom always said that there were only 3 things to be afraid of; idiots who think they're smart, people with too much power and zombies. I always thought she wa joking about the last part."
"Sounds good but I have a project just now."
"But this one has zombies. Oh and where there is zombies there must be unicorns!"
"No... this sounds very middle-grade. I refuse to do it."
"But it'll be cool. It's fantasy, you like fantasy."
"It's middle grade! I already gave you chick-lit, I will not give you middle-grade too."
"But...Look. You get one MC who's got to find the unicorn horn to defeat the zombie hoard and one MC who's got to find the zombie brain to defeat the unicorn hoard."
"That does sound cool...."
"See..."
"NO! I refuse to do this! It's not going to work. I can't do multiple points of view and... and..."
*Puppy-dog eyes*
*Sighs* "This will not end well."


Ah my brain, a wonderful place... some of the time.
I'm thinking this will live forever in the folder marked 'brain farts'.

The end of NaNo

First let me say that while I should have not only a repaired tablet but also my desktop pc back by now, I'm still on J's old laptop. It's been snowing and my parents can't to drive to my brother's house in the snow so it'll be after Christmas before I get my stuff back and there is no point in me kicking up a fuss because they're is no alternative.
Moving on..

NaNoWriMo finished a few days ago. It was a particularly eventful November for me, I had my honeymoon, I got mild hypothermia and I settled properly into the new flat. I failed to write 50,000 words but we knew that was more likely than me succeeding anyway. I got about 30,000 done. I think I'm about 3 quarter of the way there with The List so will be trying to finish the first draft over the course of this month ready to start edits in January.
If you were following how I planned for NaNo you'll know that I wrote out a list of plot points that I felt needed to be covered. this was everything from the big scenes to little bits of foreshadowing and character building. I then organised this into a timeline and have been working my way through all 76 points. I haven't done them in order, I just picked starting places and worked from there. As a result I have the end of the book written but not the start, I have most of the middle done but it doesn't join on to anything. It's a bit of a mess spread across 6 different files. It's slowly forming a book though.
I'm going to admit, some parts I hated even as I was writing them and some parts I'll be sad to cut to ribbons later but that's for editing and that's for January. Right now I just need to get more words down.

Monday, 22 November 2010

It died.

So, about a day or so after my last post, my tablet died. It has a hard drive issue and I'm waiting on a replacement coming so we can fix it.
I started using my old old laptop after that but it lasted about 2 days then died as well. It'll start up but it's slooow going to get it to do anything after that.
I'm now on J's old laptop which is being a bit tempramental its self. I'm not very happy with the state of technolgoy at the moment. My mother is currently using my desktop pc because her's is broken and she's waiting on getting my dad's old laptop up from my brother.

If you followed all that, give yourself a cookie. It basically boils down too: My tablet is broken, I have no desktop jsut now, J's laptop sucks. So theres been no blog post and very little writing going on around here.

Normal schedule of blogging should resume within the next few weeks as will videos once I get my desktop back.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Having a writing day.

Thank you to the three of you who left lovely messages on my last post. The honeymoon was awesome if rather wet and cold. We're now back home in our nice new flat and I've been left at home today to work on NaNo while J goes trainspotting.

First thing I want to say that I promised a teaser from The List and I failed to put one up yesterday, this is partly due to me not having a clue what day of the week it is and partly because I knew today was coming. Today I have an exciting plan. This post is going to be a continuous blog post. Which means that after I post this I'll be updating it at intervals throughout the day to give you a bit of insight into how my day is going.

Right now it's just gone 10.30am, I woke up at 6.30 because we ha delivery coming this morning and were told it would be between 7 and 9. At 8am our new double bed arrived and J set it up before leaving so at some point today I get to take all the bedding and towels out the hall cupboard and store them in the bed drawers. Since then I've been catching up on 3 weeks of missed youtube videos and waiting on the mailman. Now I'm going to watch some more Dan3.0 until about 11 when I'll head through to the study to get sorted for writing.

11.45am.
Finished watching Dan3.0 videos, made a cup of tea and sorted the study out. Now loading up NaNo and opening my word files to see where I want to start today. Also decided I'm not very fond of oriental crackers, eating dried coconut instead. So not feeling motivated for writing just now.

1.25pm
Ordered lunch from Domino's to keep me going. So have stopped writing to eat a mini pizza. I have been writing (eventually) I've only done about 500 words but it's a start. When I start off again I'll be writing a big argument scene so that should take up a fair few words. I was hoping to write 10,000 words today but since my previous daily record is only 4,000 we'll see how that goes. For those wondering; no, I didn't get all the NaNo planning done that I wanted done but I got enough done that I'm happy with it and I'm not having to stop and work out things like place names and building layouts which is something that I struggle with from time to time on other projects. Anyway, 2 slices of pizza down and I'm going to try and write another couple of hundred words before I have any more. Or that's the plan at least.

3pm.
After posting that last part I decided jut to eat the pizza (and the pizza sub) and watch youtube for a bit. a whole 15 minutes later my tablet died. I hadn't even saved today's work. Thankfully Open Office has a recover feature and I got it all back but still, must remember to always save often. My poor tablet had overheated so I spent a while tidying away bedding and counting towels (5 face cloths, 16 hand towels and 24 bath towels) and have only just got back on. Lets see if I can get some more writing done now.

5.40pm
Had a few more computer issues so only managed another 600 words so far. I'm also freezing though so that's not helping. I've pulled on an extra pair of woolly socks and am about to go hunting for a large fleece. Hopefully if I stop shivering I'll be able to type some more. Never going to hit 10,000 though. Maybe if I really try I'll get another 1,000 done but that would be all. I apologise for the boring rambly-ness of this post. Just be glad I don't use twitter to much.

9.10pm
Last addition of the day. Sicne my last post I've restarted my tablet 3 times, cried at the unfairness of it crashing a 4th time and gave up. J made dinner and we watched the first 40 minutes of Iron Man 2. Now he's finishing of the building of some shelves and I'm typing this and debating taking painkillers and heading to bed. I think all the shivering today has made me a bit ill as I seem to be running a fever. Oh well, nice new bed to sleep in tonight.


This was an odd little experiment, I kinda just wanted to see if it would come out at all interesting. I don't think it worked thought. If I ever do it again I need to have done a bit more than nothing and possibly include little snippets of writing. Leave your opinion in the comments below for me please. Regular programming will commence again...um... at some point soon, next Monday I think.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

No longer F.I.C

I got married!!!!

I'll try and get a photo or two up at some point but for now you'll have to take my word for it. It was a brilliant day and I think everyone who was there really enjoyed themselves. Obviously being married brings about a lot of changes, I now have to share my bed, I have to cook food for 2, I can't spend all day on the internet instead of doing housework and cooking and socialising with other human beings. It also means my name has changed.

FICWrites comes from my initials; Fiona I Campbell. But now my name has changed so tecnically I'm FIMWrites which just doesn't have the same ring to it I don't think. So I have the whole dilemma of whether or not to change my blog title, my username, my twitter, my vlog etc. Or is it okay to just keep it the same?
Someone did suggest that I keep FIC for YA chick lit and use my new name for YA fantasy since I write both in completely different styles. I have no idea so as yet it stays as FICWrites but opinions are welcome.

On another note, NaNoWriMo has begun!! I've only writing about half of what I should but I'm fine with that, after all I am still on honeymoon for another week. I've taken my list of events and have been picking one a day to write or add bits to which is going well so far. I've written some hysterical lines, some dramatic events and some real eye-rolling moments (Ah Derek how I love thee). From Tuesday on I'll post little teasers once a week for you all to enjoy (and laugh at because they'll be unedited). I'm hoping to have finished the first draft of the List by the end of the year and then start on edits in January.

Anyway, my husband is up and about and looking for breakfast so I best go and feed him before he starts cooking pizza for breakfast.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

I just got yoghurt on the bed

Right now I'm sitting in bed checking blogs and emails and eating yoghurt. In about half an hour I'll have written this, showered, dressed and be preparing to clean the cooker. This is my life right now.

I moved in on Sunday, started cleaning on Monday. Took 5 hours to clean the bathroom, looked at the kitchen, cried, phoned mum. Tuesday saw mum and I spend the whole day cleaning the kitchen minus the cooker and the floor. Yesterday I went back to my parents for a break (and to watch tv). Today I'm cleaning the cooker so I can cook the first proper meal here (Domino's deliver so I've been eating lots of pizza so far) and I need to move all the boxes out the main bedroom so the new bed can be delivered.

If you haven't guessed, no writing has been done. No planning, no imagery work, not even a chance to pull the stuff out the bag and look at it. But once the cooker is done and the floor has been swept and mopped and all the boxes moved and the dinner is on, then I plan to find the bag my writing stuff is in and pelt my way through some more planning. That is, if I finish moving all the stuff I need to move before dinner is ready because after dinner I have to go to a meeting with the entertainment people for the wedding.

And in case, like Melanie, you have no idea what is going on here let me give you a brief bio. I'm 21, a part-time, study-at-home student with Open University who is not currently studying just now (but starts again in Feb), I get married in 9 days so have moved out of my parents house into the flat my husband and I will be living in. I'm planning on taking part in NaNoWriMo this year despite the fact I'm on my honeymoon for the first 2 weeks of it. It'll be a challenge but I like challenges.

And now that I've dropped the spoon and got yoghurt on the bed clothes, I should probably go shower and get on with my day.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Injuries

I wish I could blame injuries for the lack of posts around here recently, or even spending loads of time working on the planning. Alas, the truth is I've been hunting for a new car, organising a new bank account and doing other boring grown up things.

I'm also currently packing up my room to move on Saturday, which is how I managed to sprain my wrist last night. Stepping over boxes a few hours ago a pulled a muscle in my neck which still hurts as does my food which has just stopped bleeding after I stood on a needle which kindly decided to embed itself in my skin.

Friday I'm at a wedding so don't even think I might post then, I may give you a video on wednesday if I remember not to pack my camera before then. Sorry folks, it's chaos here at the moment

Monday, 4 October 2010

ARGH! The busyness, it eats time.

As an indication of how busy I have been lately I managed to post this video on Friday but am only now managing to do a blog post. Even now I'm jumping back and forth between writing emails and typing this.

It's 26 days tot he wedding and there seems to be an endless to-do list of emails that need sent, gifts that need bought or thanked, arrangements to be made and things to be paid. It is eating my time! Hopefully a lot of the big bits still left will be done by the end of this week. Actually they kind of have to be because next weekend I have a friend's wedding followed by the adventure of moving house and then on to doing all the bits I currently don't have space for.

In book news, I've finished all the main characters, only got 1 more visual for them to do and only got a few bits to add to a couple of the supporting cast sheets and their done. It's not where I hoped to be but we're getting there. This week I'm just working on the events and should have most of that done by Friday.... hopefully.

I know it seems like all I do lately is tell you how little I've done, things will improve, I promise. But my wedding is a bit more important to me than the book or keeping you informed about it. When I'm happily married and have a bit more stress-free time things will pick up.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Book visuals

As promised, a post on book visuals. I talk a little about it in the video here.

When I started working on the character's for The List it quickly became apparent that one of the things I wanted was a clear idea of what my characters looked like. So the search began for the ideal pictures. My theory was that if I could have a physical image in front of me I was less likely to make some stupid mistake like change the main character's hair colour half way through the book and not realising. The same can be said for locations and other random bits and pieces like school uniforms and building layouts.

To me, visuals are important.Visuals help keep the continuity right, they help when writing descriptive passages and they give you something to look for when you need a break from writing but still want to be doing something useful. They can also help with writer's block as they may provide the inspiration you need to continue your scene or start a new one. Staring at a photo and suddenly wondering "What if..." can go along way to helping you with your writing. If it's not something you've considered before I recommend spending a few hours hunting out some visuals for your own work. You never know how helpful you may find it.

So far I found the main visuals for all my main characters, for all the dates and for all the parents. There are still a few things like set outfits (and those pesky school uniforms), a tattoo design and a motor bike that I want to find or draw images for before I consider the character visuals done but I'm definitely getting there.

I used a website called New Faces to find all my character visuals. I love this site because it's a load of almost totally unknown actors and models. You can narrow your search by gender, hair colour, body type, skin tone, location, and age. I usually ended up with only 4 or 5 pages to go through before I found the perfect image. though finding the boys was harder because for some reason I kept getting girls popping up in my male searches.


Because I think you're all amazing for sticking by me through all this boring planning stuff here are a few of my date pictures for your viewing pleasure:


To the left is Aarron. He's my sweet guy. I like him lots. He dates Cynthia for most of the book though he does date Beth for a bit but that's mainly because Beth convinces him to, his heart really belongs to Cynthia. He's much to good for her but what can you do, the heart wants what it wants.




On the right is Derek. He's the bad boy. In fact he is THE stereotypical bad boy, right down to the motorbike and smoking habit. I'm really looking forward to the bit where he crops up because he is such a good character to write.



Finally (well, for now) we have Brian. Brian is the first of Ella's dates and, well, let's just say he lives up to his nickname of 'Brainless Brian'. Don't worry I don't think he'll be around long, though he is shaping up to be an interesting write.


And there you have it. My take on visuals and a few little teases. See, sometimes I am good to you all.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Book review of dead days

Wonderful, loving, caring fiance gave me his cold which my poor stressed out body turned into the flu. Yay for me. I'll maintain I'm over it for now though.

The post you should have got on Friday will be put up this Friday when I have a bit more to say on the subject of how planning is going and what the next steps are. There will hopefully be a video and blog on Wednesday about casting novels and using visuals to inspire. Next Monday, I'm warning you now, there probably wont be a blog. My hen-do is this weekend and after it we're going to be finishing up all the wedding paperwork so I probably wont have time.

Today, however, you get a book review. Just the one in case by some miracle I manage to post on Monday and need another book to review, but you're at least getting something from me.

The Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick
This was an interesting little book. It's about a boy called, well.. Boy and his master/owner Valerian. Valerian is a magician who bartered with the devil for his magic skills and now only has until New Years day to live so is spending the days between Christmas and New Year (the 'dead days') trying to find a book he hopes will save his life. It's an odd little story. Boy lived on the streets before Valerian found him and took him in. He feels he owes it to Valerian to keep doing what he's told despite how badly Valerian treats him. Valerian, Boy and another stage hand from the theater, Willow set out to find the book and hopefully prolong Valerian's life.
It was an interesting book, very dark in places and at least 2 people died in it. It was well written if a little too creepy for my tastes (especially the bit about the animal experiments...ugh) so I probably wont be looking for the sequel. But if you're into dark and creepy then it is a good read.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Quick update

So just in case you haven't been following. Lack of sleep and high stress levels mean I haven't been very well lately, hence the lack of anything from me. There is a book review coming on Monday but a the moment it's just the one because I haven't read anything in a week.

My new stationary has helped me be a bit more organised and so far I have managed to finish all the boy character sheets and I'm about 3 quarters of the way through the girls. I've also looked out suitable visuals for them all, or at least the main visual I'll use for them on. I'll do a post on that next week and maybe even show you some.

Sorry this is so short, if you want to hear me talk some more nonsense, today's video is here.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Boring drivel

What, you guys are as excited about that as me? Your loss.

This will be short blog post, partly because I don't really have much to say and partly because I laughed tea all over my keyboard yesterday and half my keys are sticking.

First off, I should mention: There is no video this week.
I tried to film it and ended up only taking a picture of myself instead and now it's too dark to fill in decent lighting and I'm just giving up. I still haven't had a proper nights sleep so it's probably for the best.

Now, today I bough myself a document wallet, a new pencil case, some coloured sticky dots, some coloured index cards and a note pad. Then I took myself to the library where I proceeded to ORGANIZE! I now have lists of characters with coloured dots next to them indication how far I've planned them. A similar list of events started and the makings of a similar list of locations. I also have a purposed timetable of what I should be doing each day in order to a) not over lode myself and b) get everything done on time. We shall see how that turns out.
I'll post tomorrow to let you know how far things have got and what my plan for next week is.

Just really wanted to say that I was still alive and had bought new stationary. That is all.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Book review!

I know this is late, and I know there was no Friday post. I'm sorry. I haven't been sleeping well* and it's making focusing on the computer screen difficult. I have managed to finish 1 book though so here is that review:

Pretty Bad Things (get over it, nobody dies) by C. J. Skuse

This was an interesting book, and not always for good reasons. The idea is a good one; 16-year old twins Paisley and Beau set off to Las Vegas to find the father they haven't seen since they were 6, the day their mother died. In their attempt to find him they start a crime-spree in the hope of getting on the news so their dad will see and know they are looking for him. Throw in an evil, money grabbing grandmother and you have the premise of a pretty interesting story. Unfortunately, I found the execution didn't seem to do it justice.
The book is told from two points of view Paisley's and Beau's, alternating with each chapter. At the start it's difficult to get your head around because the characters are soo different from each other. Paisley is wild and outspoken while Beau is timid and introverted. As this book has an obvious character development theme, the roles of Paisley and Beau change over the course, Paisley becomes a little less wild and Beau becomes a little more brave, which would be fine normally, but it leaves the middle of the book feeling a bit odd in my opinion. The voices become too same-y and it becomes hard to identify who's head you're really in. It doesn't really clear up at the end either as by then the characters are a bit too different from the start for me to feel that it works.
The plot in itself is really good and there are some hilarious and well written scenes throughout and the climax is kind of edge-of-the-seat gripping. I just found the execution lacked slightly. Maybe that's just me. Maybe you should go read the book and come back and argue about it with me?




*Understatement, I slept from 11pm-2am last night and then from 9am-1pm this morning/afternoon. That's getting to be almost normal. Which is getting to be annoying.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The 3 Month Plan.

There are 59 days until I get married, 61 until the start of NaNoWriMo so I have a lot of planning and organising and stuff to do.

Book wise (cause I wont bore you with wedding plans) I hope to get the following done:

Boy character plans
Girl character plans
Supporting character plans
Location descriptions (and possibly maps)
Town description (and map, maybe)
Visuals for characters and possibly locations
Scene plans
Character interaction time-line

Yup, I'm not making it easy on myself. The idea for the next two months is to work on getting all that done, while continuing to blog and vlog as normal, and then use NaNo to write as much of the first draft as I can. I'm not making promises about how much I get done, we'll just have to wait and see.

As for this blog we're going to stick to the current structure of Mondays being book reviews, Wednesdays being related to the videos and possibly add in some Friday videos though I'm not sure what they'll be about yet. Any and all suggestions are welcome.

What I'll do this Friday is go over how far I've got with planning and where I'll be going from there. Until then, if you watch the video (here) you learn my plans for the Wednesday posts and videos.

Monday, 30 August 2010

How I live Today

This is coming up rather later than normal but at least it's up on the right day. I started reading Meg Rosoff's 'How I Live Now' last Tuesday and finished it early Wednesday, I have started another book but I haven't finished it yet so I can only give you one review this week. I've also been kind of ill and am sleeping lots so you'll probably only get one review next week as well.

How I live Now by Meg Rosoff.
I picked this up this month having previously read Just In Case by the same author. I have to say both books are very different, both are good, they're just different from each other. Unlike Justin who I found rather un-likeable Daisy, the female protagonist of How I Live Now is most definitely like-able. The story follows Daisy as she is sent from America to live with her English cousins just before a war breaks out. Once Britain finds it'self under the rule of The Enemy Daisy and her four cousins find themselves split up and fighting to survive.
This is an exciting tale that I read in two sittings because I just didn't want to put it down, I only did the first time because I had to sleep. Daisy has to grow up quickly and fight to keep herself and her young cousin alive as the search for the other two cousins. It's a tale of courage and strength and love. You see, the twist in the tale here is that Daisy is in love with one of her cousins and its this love that gives her the strength to keep going, it's this love that keeps her alive.
When put like that it's an odd sounding book but I guarantee you'll enjoy it if you give it a try.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Not as exciting.

To be honest, when I said I might have something different for you on Friday I'm sure I had some kind of plan. Not so much now (especially given today is Saturday), I just can't remember what I was thinking way back on Monday.

As it turned out I couldn't post yesterday anyway, I got an email on Thursday asking if I could reschedule my wedding dress fitting for yesterday. I used it as a dry run to check hair, make-up, shoes and underwear too which took me most of the day, especially trying to get comfy in a corset and heels. And when I got back home I was really tired and not focusing properly enough to write anything coherent, so no post for you.

Instead, here is a list of the books I took out of the library on Tuesday:

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Pretty Bad Things (get over it, nobody dies) by C. J. Skuse
The Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr
The Bloodline Cipher by Stephen Cole
The Pirate's Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson

To confuse you even more than a supposed special Friday post being a boring Saturday post, I found all these books by only visiting 2 separate shelves in my libraries YA section. I think someone needs to teach them how to organise books.


Monday will be book reviews, Wednesday I'll be explaining my plan for the next 3 months and if I think of anything else exciting I will write it down and post about it on Friday for you,

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Something exciting

The video for this post is here.

First of all I want to thank my lovely subscribers. I failed to notice the youtube channel had gained 4 subscribers until a day or two ago and I know I have a few new subscribers here too. Thank you for your support, especial Race and Angie who between them seem to comment on almost every post. I apologise that I don't always do the same in return but I am getting better; I now average 1 blog comment a day rather than 1 a week.

Secondly, if you read my post about talking to an agent (*waves to Natalie if she's reading*) I have an update. She did eventually take my advice and will be running a bad query contest next month, information can be found on her fabulous blog here.

As promised I have a special treat for you, here is the horribly written first draft of the opening of The List. I wrote this in about an hour and emailed it to Rachel Mercaldo for her opinion on it before I started to do anything else with it. I think I'll probably use this as a plan for the whole of the first chapter though, or at least, a chapter at some point.


I stared down at the page before me, then turned to the others, “What's at the top of your list? I can't decide between good looks and a sense of humour.” beside me Beth laughed, “Looks of course, I mean even geeky Steve Wilson could make you laugh if he tried but you wouldn't date him would you?” I shook my head. No, I wouldn't date Steve, even if he could have made me laugh. I quickly jotted down 'good looks' at the top of my, so far blank, list. “Well I want a guy who'll spend money on me, and is willing to ditch his mates to spend time with just me,” Cynthia said, everyone nodded in agreement added it to their lists.

It was two nights before school started back and we where having our 'back-to-school' annual sleep-over. Cynthia had declared that it was about time that I had a boyfriend, and so we now sat around Beth and I's room writing out lists of the top ten things we would look for in our potential boyfriends. As usual Cynthia had devised the rules for this game; we were to write 10 things then share our lists with each other so we could be alert for any potentials. We'd been at it for half an hour and everyone except me had finished their list. Which was all very well for them, but the idea behind this had been to find me a boyfriend not anyone else. While I wasn't the only one of our group without a boyfriend at that point, I had been single the longest. I knew it wasn't because of my looks, Beth and I were identical in that department and she had had almost as many boyfriends as Cynthia. No, it was definitely a personality thing, I just didn't know what I wanted or how to get it.

I chewed the end of my pencil as I looked over my list again, thinking about Steve and what made him someone I wouldn't date. “I don't want anyone smarter than me,” I said eventually and was promptly hit on the head by a well aimed pillow, “As if we could find anyone,” Martha laughed. “No,” I said, trying to explain, “I mean I don't want a geek like Steve. Besides, just because I get better grades than you doesn't mean I'm smart,” I said, to more laughter. “Yeah,” Beth agreed, “You only got one A+ on your last report card,” now it was my turn to throw pillows. Beside me, Cynthia had grabbed my half-finished list and was happily making her own additions, “You want someone who's good in bed, you want your first time to be with someone who knows what he's doing. And there is no way you are leaving high school still a virgin, but we have all year to deal with that.” I just sat there nodding. I trusted that Cynthia knew what she was talking about, she had dated most of our classmates after all, and even managed a few weeks with a college freshman last fall. “And you want someone who'll get on well with us.” Martha said, “No point dating someone who hates your besties.” Cynthia nodded and added it to my list.

I realized I had become the groups new project and the dismay must have shown on my face because Beth took my hand and said, “Obviously these are just guidelines to get things started, we wont set you up with anyone you don't like.” I smiled and nodded. I had known these girls since preschool and Beth was my twin sister, we'd been through everything together. I trusted them. Martha had moved round beside Cynthia and they were discussing possible additions to my list. “You don't want a proper bad boy,” She said to me, “You're not that type, but then you don't want a goody-goody either.” she glanced again at the paper, “That gives you seven.” Everyone was silent for a moment, as we thought about what else to add. The CD player had picked that point to play a song about true love. I was about to ask for my list back when Martha made a grab for it. “Of course.” she said, as if it should have been obvious to all of us, “We can't have you dating some loser, he has to be one of the popular boys.” I watched as she wrote it down, glad that my friends were looking out for me like. Finally Cynthia handed the paper back to me, “You can add you're own last two,” she said. I scanned the list and quickly added 'sense of humor' which I'd forgotten about earlier but the last one had me stumped. “Are you sure about all these?” I asked, reading the list again. I couldn't think of a single guy at school who would match all these qualities that I actually liked. Maybe this year would be like one of those cheesy romance novels and some mysterious new guy will turn up that everyone thinks is totally wrong for me but ends up being just the right guy. I got so caught up in my daydream about hot bad boy bikers that I failed to notice the argument that had started over which dvd to watch.

As the others tried to decide between some dance film and some cheerleading film I stared at my paper trying to imagine the kind of guy that would fit with everything written on it. Most of the boys Cynthia dated where exactly like that but I hadn't really liked any of them, not beyond looks anyway. I focused on trying to fill in the blank gap at the bottom of the list, the one thing that would round out my perfect guy. After a moment I carefully wrote 3 words, “Must read books” and slipped the paper under the bed out of sight in case some felt the need to comment.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Lets review some books.

Cause it's a Monday and that's book review day. I read two very different books this week, I actually finished them on Thursday but haven't read anything since. I was starting to see printed type emblazoned on my eyelids so thought I should stop for a bit.

Immortal by Gillian Shields

I think this is supposed to be a Gothic, paranormal romance. It's got a secret society, some witches, a crazy wizard (warlock? What are we calling male witches these days?), a ghost girl, a guy who's a bit less alive than you think, a guy who's a bit less dead than you think, a scary boarding school some midnight romantic meetings by the lake.
Evie is sent to Wyldcliffe Abbey School when her Grandmother becomes ill. There she struggles to fit into the strict regime and make friends. She also meets Sebastian who is full of mystery and whom she's not really allowed to meet, hence the midnight fun by the lake.
It's well written enough to keep me turning pages and manages to carry on a sense of mystery and suspense despite it's sometimes obvious plot lines (mainly about the secret society and Sebastian's true reason for being near the school). I really enjoyed this one, I got swept away in the Gothic mystery of the location with it's wild moors and impressive manor house. It's got lots of interesting characters with may more going on in their lives than yo would first think. It's the first book in a set and I'll be keeping my eye out for the next one.


Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Clay Jensen arrives home to find a parcel of 7 tapes waiting on them. On them Hannah Baker, an old school friend and secret crush, explains the reasons why she recently committed suicide. The things that Clay hears change his views on his classmates, on Hannah and on his own life.
This book hurt to read. It's so well written I almost had to stop because I didn't want to hear any more about all the things that had happened to Hannah, and I didn't want to watch how badly Clay was coping with hearing it. Which is really the point. At the back is an author interview and in there Jay Asher mentions that he hopes it will make people more aware of how they treat others. You never really know the full story of a person's life, even if you think you do, and you never know how much damage you could be doing, even if you're trying to help.
I don't think I would say I enjoyed this book, I don't think it's a book to be enjoyed in the 'that was a good story' sense. But I do think everyone should read this book and, more importantly, let it change them.


So there you have it for this week's reviews, I have a special treat for you on Wednesday and possibly something different for Friday.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Announcements!

The video for this post is here.

First of all I want to wish Rachel Mercaldo well and hope she's enjoying settling into college life. Rachel's agent put her out on sub last week and within two days Rachel was rejected. Which sucks but at least it's happened now and she is a bit more prepared for it in the future. I have promised that if she makes it to 10 rejections before she comes over to visit in October then I'll buy her a new book, though I think she'll b picked up before she gets to 10 rejection.

In other news NaNoWriMo is slowly approaching. National Novel Writing Month take place every November and it's a cruel and and unusual form of punishment that writers willingly participate in. the basic idea is that you write 50,000 words in 30 days. I have 3 ideas about what to do this year and I thought I'd open it up to let my wonderful readers help me make the decision. It's worth bearing in mind that I get married a the end of October so I'm on my honeymoon for the first 2 weeks of November I should be able to still get writing done but obviously other things will take priority, like moving house.

So my ideas are:
  1. Ignore it completely
  2. Finish the project I started last year since I only did about 2 weeks worth last year this might work out quite well.
  3. Work really hard on planning The List from now until then and use NaNoWriMo to write the first draft of that.
Let me know what your thinking in the comments below and if you have any requests for future blog posts / videos leave them as well.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

I've been talking to an agent

When J phoned me tonight and asked if I had done anything exciting today my immediate response was, "Yes, I've been talking to an agent, a real agent, and important book agent." He was rather impressed and excited, probably by my fan-girl squees.

And then I came clean.

Yes, I have been talking to a real life important book agent, her name is Natalie Fischer (she blogs here) and she is the agent-most-awesome of Rachel Mercaldo (she blogs here) but she is not my agent. Nor does she have any plans to become my agent. Yes we spoke, well, okay, we tweeted a few times, but not related to my writing at all.
I was trying to convince her that a certain query writing contest was a good idea. I don't think it worked.

Still, it's the first time an agent has ever noticed my existence (that I know of) so I'm going to say my squees were justified.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Love, lust and Glaswegian thugs - Book reviews!

I have 3 book reviews for you today from 3 very different books.


Sugarcoated by Catherine Forde

The front cover of this has a love heart on it, the back has this:

Excuse me, most gorgeous guy I've ever met.
See, before you go down in history as my FIRST and ONLY date,
d'you mind ticking the following boxes to disclose whether or not you are:
a) A psycho axe-murderer
b) The Devil in a suede jacket
c) Just after me for my body. (Ooooh yes please!)


With a blurb like that I was really intrigued by this one. The book is about a girl called Claudia (Cloddy) who witnesses a violent attack outside her dad's opticians, later that day she meets The. Most. Gorgeous. Guy. Ever. Apparently. But Sexy, rich, Stefan is not all he appears to be and the police keep turning up to ask her more questions about the attack she swears she never saw.
This book really threw me when I started reading it, and not in a good way. First chapter establishes Cloddy as totally board with having to work in her dads shop on a Saturday. Second chapter, we get a graphic description of a guy being attacked with a hammer. BAM. Just like that. I suppose if gore is your thing, it's not that graphic but it was certainly enough for me to put the book down and walk away. I think I actually did the putting it in the middle of the floor and walking around it to see if it's dangerous. Only closer inspection I discovered that the title page, the thing I usually ignore, contained a warning that the book contains violence. Helpful, but perhaps more helpful if put on the cover. Of course 2 chapters later Cloddy is being chatted up by some heartthrob she met at the sweet counter. It was all a bit confusing really. The book did pick up after that, though there were a few more violent paragraphs they were more side glances than full descriptions.
The main character was a bit annoying, it became fairly obvious what was going on quite early on and yet Cloddy continued, completely oblivious to personal danger, to get herself into some very stupid situations. For a girl who is supposed to have grown up in Glasgow with it's drug and knife crime culture, she did some pretty stupid stuff. Speaking as someone who also grew up in Glasgow. I suppose you do get people as tuned-out as Cloddy but it made the book harder to get into for me. The writing is quiet good and really gets inside Cloddy's head. I did finish it but I'm not sure I would have started it if I had known about the violence before I hit chapter 2.


All we Know of Love by Nora Raleigh Baskin
A girl (Natalie) goes on a bus-trip to Florida. Okay so she's convinced her dad she's gone on a skiing holiday with her best friend and she's off to track down her mother who left without warning 4 years ago. But basically...

This is a fun one. It tells Natalie's story as she travels to find her mother; who walked out 4 years earlier in the middle of telling her something about love. It's interspersed with stories of Natalie's own love life and stories of the people she meets and their love lives. It really takes a close look at how we are shaped by the people we love. There isn't much given to us directly about Natalie's character but a lot can be taken about her from the snippets of her relationship with Adam. Which, in my opinion, is really clever writing. It's a really interesting insight into love and how it shapes our actions and our reactions to things. Yes, you could just read it an enjoy the story but for those that want to look, this goes much deeper than that,


A Bad Boy Can be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone

On the back of the book E. Lockhart describes the writing as 'poetic'. If you ever find a copy of this, glance inside and the meaning of that word will not be lost on you. Yes this is a story, told from 3 different girl's points of view but it's written as poems, or at least in poem format. This made it a really quick book to read while I was sunbathing yesterday, I made it through all 220 pages in a couple of hours and that was with taking breaks. The writing style of this isn't something I've seen before but it's definitely something I'd like to see again. When you sit writing block of prose every day you forget the impact a break in a sentence can have on the mood of a piece. Or I do anyway. This book follows the story of 3 girls who all date the high school dirt bag, the boy who is out to lay every chick in the school before graduation. A subject which would provide most teenagers with enough material to write a bunch of angst ridden poetry. But there is a lack of angst here, there is raw emotion and well thought out structure. I seriously recommend reading this book, then read it again actually paying attention to the line breaks and how it plays with the feeling of the words. Here is one of the shorter 'poems' from it:

TWO WORDS

Phone rings.
"It's me."

A code.
As if to say,
Who else could it be?
he claims me with
a two-word combination
to my personal lock.

Friday, 13 August 2010

When technology inhibits productivity.

So I sat down to write this about an hour ago which illustrates my point quite nicely.

For the past couple of days I've been getting up early and starting my day by doing my studying, trying to catch up to where my planner says I should be. I've been doing pretty well at it, I'm now only 2 weeks behind. I was feeling quite good about my productivity levels as each day I was getting through my to-do list quite happily.

And then today happened.

I woke up 3 hours late to start with and then my to-do list laughed in my face and magically expanded. Still, I can cope with that, just sit down and do my journal then my study and everything will be fine... right? Wrong. As I was stripping the bed and tidying away clothes I switched my computer on. My theory was that if I checked my emails first I'd be less concerned about rushing through my study to check them. That was 2 hours ago. I haven't showered, I haven't journalled, I haven't studied. I have read some blogs, done my daily blog commenting (I try to comment on 3 blogs a day), I've checked emails, I've played on facebook, I've read web comics and I've rpoled (rpol.net check it out).

In a way I have been productive. I've done all this stuff that I would probably have got done later in the day anyway. Except I'd have done it sitting in the living room with my fiance where as now when he arrives I'll need to be studying, that is after I make him take me to Asda because I have no time to get there and back on my own before he arrives.

Technology is great, I can check my emails on my phone, I can follow twitter in the car, I can chat to people form all over the world. I can type essays and blog posts and shop and study and do loads of really productive things. But it also eats time like crazy if your not disciplined enough to turn off that little voice that goes 'oh I'll just check this while I'm on'.
For example, I spent 20 minutes trying to log in to my university's community to read a blog post that I was only mildly interested in. And only because I'd seen it pop up on twitter which I was only on because a friend's facebook status was complaining about how few followers he had.

*deep breath*

Right, time to shut down *shudders* and actually be productive away from time-eating technology. If I'm lucky I'll get it all down before J arrives in 4 hours.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Touring the bookshelf

Okay so today's video (click here) is more fan service for the one person I know actually views the videos.


As it toured my bookshelf (okay, one bookshelf and 3 media units stacked on top of each other) I realiesd just how few books I actually own. Surely as a writer this is not normal. Yeah okay I have 2 boxes of books packed away but their small boxes which only amount to about 12 more books. I do have an amazon book wish list that currently totals close to 300 books but I don't actually own that many.

I make extensive use of my local library, usually going through between 5 and 10 books from there a month (and it only take a month because I hate the 3 mile walk to return them and get more). And of course birthdays and Christmas are always times to ask for more books. I just feel that if I'm supposed to be a writer I should own more books. That and, you know, I love to read.

So what about you? Do you own shelves and shelves of books or just a select few that mean a lot to you?

Monday, 9 August 2010

Paper Vampires - book reviews!

Certainly not good if you're reading something that gets all deep and meaningful towards the end *glares at Paper Towns*. Anyway, lets review some books, they're both kinda short today.

Paper Towns by John Green

Margo Roth Spiegelman hijacks Quentin's life for one wild night before vanishing. She seems to have left a series of Margo-like clues behind her though which do not point to a happy ending. Quentin and his fiends race against time to unravel the enigma that I Margo and try to find her before it's to late.
I was really looking forward to this one and it didn't really disappoint. It's more deep than I expected it to be and there are lots of bits that really made me think about how I view the world and the people I interact with. If you're like me and tend to force yourself to stay awake to finish a book, I suggest not doing that with this one. The end is a bit to intense in a metaphysical way to be reading 3 hours after you should have been asleep. Apart from that though I really enjoyed this book. It does make you think about things, more than I think a lot of YA (or any) books do these days The character's were well thought out and full of delightful little quirks that you expect people to have but don't always happen in fiction. I would recommend it but be prepared to have to really pay attention to it at times, I had to keep re-reading sections to fully understand it.


Diary of A Wimpy Vampire (because the undead have feelings too) by Tim Collins

Nigel Mullet was transformed at the age of 15, and even 85 years later has not grown out of the awkwardness of teenage life. He never got the beauty or the speed or any of the super cool vampire powers he should have got when he transformed. It seems he doomed to wander the earth as the perpetual broody, whiny teenager, never managing to win the girl of his dreams.
I read this along side Paper Towns which was a good idea; partly because of the heavy-going-ness of some of the passages in Paper Towns and partly for the 'you are such an annoying MC' feeling of this. Yes, okay, I found the MC to be very annoying for most of this book. But it worked surprisingly well. For a case-study of how a character should change over the course of a book, this one is brilliant. there is such a stark contrast between the long rambling diary entries at the start to the short, cheerful ones at the end. Once I got used to haw depressed with his life Nigel is I started to enjoy the book. It is a very predictable 'My life sucks then I met a girl and all is peachy.' but it works. If you have a few hours to spare and want to read about the troubled life of a perpetually 15 year old then give it a shot.


I'm currently reading Cathrine Ford's Sugarcoated which is actually set not so many miles away from where I live and has a very jarring opening couple of chapters. SO you should definitely hope I post the review of it on Monday cause it'll be good.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Planning, part 2

The video for this post can be found here.

So yes, trying out Wednesday videos, though hopefully not taking 5 hours to film, edit and upload like today.

Today we're yet again looking at planning, this time how I plan. I plan in loads of different ways depending on what it is I'm doing and what ideas I have about it.
THaN was planned around scenes, ideas for parts of the story that I had in my head, so I worked out what those scenes were and then what characters to fit it and built around the scenes.
The Missing Number was planned around a joke I heard and expanded out to fit a theme and planned around fitting the story to the joke.
The Shadows was planned from a dream. Like THaN it was a scene and everything was planned around that scene.

The List is different again. The List started because 4 girls walked into my head as fully formed characters and started telling me about this list they had made. Soon after a bunch of boys joined in and once I heard Derek and Cynthia going on about their storylines I knew I had to write about them. So most of my planning work is going into building up the characters, this is going to be a very character driven story rather than a plot point driven story. It's not something I've done before but that's cool, I like a challenge.

I can't really say much more at the moment because I haven't done much more than that. You'll just have to stay tuned to find out if this planning works or if I throw the whole thing in a trunk and ignore it.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Yes, okay, I vanished again.

I spent a long weekend in a farm hotel with my fiance and no internet access. It was bliss.

It also meant no Friday post, no Friday video, and no Monday book reviews. Sorry.
I'm hopefully going to be moving the videos to a Wednesday because then I might have more lucky at getting them done every week.

I did manage to visit the library on Friday before we left and gathered another pile of books. Of course first I had to present them with a bank statement, a credit card bill, my passport and my drivers license to prove I was who I said I was and I lived within the area, so yes I could be trusted with a library card (despite the obvious fact that I was asking for a replacement because I lost the last one). So here is the list of what I now have sitting beside my desk;


Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Diary of a Wimpy Vampire (because the undead have feelings too) by Tim Collins
Paper Towns by John Green (SQUEE!)
Sugarcoated by Catherine Forde
All We Know of Love by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Immortal by Gillian Shields
A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone

I'm currently reading Paper Towns as it's been on my want list for at least a year and I was so very excited to see it sitting there on the library shelf. I checked the system and it only arrived at the end of April and was taken out straight away, probably took the usual week or so to go back through the system and then I found it. I refuse to comment on wither or not I actually squeed in the library.
Thirteen Reasons why is also on my want list so I'll probably leave that till list but any suggestions on what order to read the rest in would be gratefully received. You should hopefully get the first reviews from this pile on Monday as usual.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Links form student life

This morning I signed into Twitter to be greeted by this:

OpenUniversity: Want a career in writing? It's going to be tough, says author and OU honorary graduate Zoe Wicomb: http://bit.ly/cBi5Mw


It's a really good interview from Zoe that certainly gave me a new way of looking at the skill of writing. It also reminded me to share this:

Open University - Start Writing Fiction pod cast.

You don't need to be an OU student to access either of these but they are well worth a look at (or listen to). I did the Start Writing Fiction course last year and found it immensely helpful and these pod casts highlight the main points of the course.

Your homework for the week is to check out both links and write a comment with a minimum of 30 words on their content :D Or not.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Just in Case I Die...(or 'Moar bookreviews!)

As promised here are the book reviews for the last of my stash from the library. I'm returnign them today and will probably get out a bunch of new books while I'm in. So without further ado...

Just in Case by Meg Rosoff

This was an interesting one. Here is a picture of the cover:



Now, it's worth noting that there are a few different versions of this cover but this is the one I'm currently holding. Is it just me or does it look a tad... girly? With it's pastel shade and the flowers. This book is not girly. This book confused me totally. It's about a boy caled David Case, except he's decided he's called Justin (yup, Justin Case) and he has a dog, except only he and his new friend Peter and his sisters can see it. Oh and most of the deep philosphy in the book comes from the inner voice of David/Justin's baby brother. Confused yet? Let me add that the book is about David/Justin trying to run away from Fate and it might make more sense.
I found this a thoroughly odd book David/Justin seems to go out of his way to be an unlike-able character and some of his supporting characters I found rather unlike-able as well. And yet there is something compelling about the whole thing. David/Justin honestly believes Fate is out to get him and he honestly believes he can trick Fate into letting him live.
If you have time to ponder the complexities of the human mind and fancy reading something with a bit of quirky depth to it give this a go. If you do read it though I have a request... could you tell me whether or not Alice is real? I got really confused at that part.


Before I Die by Jenny Downham
This one seems to follow on with the death and rebellion themes of Twenty Boy Summer but in a whole different way. And yes, this one made me cry. Here is what the Sunday Times said about this book:

"Novels for young teenagers do not usually feature drugs and casual sex
within the first 20-odd pages. But most books for teenagers will not leave
an adult reader's eyes so blurry with tears that it's hard to see the final chapters. Jenny Downham's extraordinary first novel does both."

That pretty much sums it up. Go read it.
You want more? Okay. This is about Tessa who is dieing of cancer and writes a list of things she wants to do before she dies. Her list includes sex, drugs, being famous, getting her parents back together, travelling the world. It does not include falling in love or her best friend getting pregnant though Tessa doesn't really seem to mind either. It's an emotional roller coaster of a book that makes you hate Tessa in one chapter and really want things to work out for her in the next. It's brilliant. Now go read it.


Friday, 23 July 2010

The different routes to planning.

The video related to this post can be found here.

When it comes to planning there are many different ways to do it; some people write thousands of pages meticulously panning, others just have the basic idea and wing it from there. I like to think I fall somewhere in the middle. The video above looks at some of the different method I've used and seen used when it comes to planning novels, short stories and even essays.

Here we're going to look at how the wonderful Rachel Mercaldo plans her work to offer you a better insight into how some writers plan.

Firstly, Rachel, thank you for agreeing to do this at such short notice. In general, do you think that planning is important?
Definitely. For some writers, "winging it" is as natural as breathing. But for others, like me, writing without a plan is like being lost in a maze. Our outlines are our maps.

If we focus first on your YA romance novel 'Virginity Thief', did you have a plan for it before you started writing?
Oh yes. I'm the type of writer who simply can't function without an outline. With The Virginity Thief, I had about 5 pages of outline. Every chapter was given a very detailed paragraph.

So, did you start out knowing exactly how many chapters you wanted to include?
I did. Of course, with editing and rewrites you add so many words, and you end up adding chapters. But in my outline (which was based on content, not word count) I had every single detail planned out.

I take it then that when you finished your writing it didn't exactly resemble the plan you started with?

Depends on what you mean by "finished." My first draft resembled my outline precisely, and at this point you have a problem. All the major plot points and scenes and characters are there, but one thing outlines don't have are transitions that fit exactly. I had to get Mari Abdo from the mall to the bowling alley but there was time in between. You realize that a scene could be added to strengthen her relationship with the love interest, or some such thing. And so you add and edit and rewrite.

And then of course you scored you're agent most awesome Natalie Fischer and you were given agent edits from her which changes it again.
Precisely. There is never a time when your book is perfect. Betas change it for the better, agents change it for the better, and eventually I hope to experience an editor changing it for the better.

Did all those changes take more planning or did you just wing it from the suggestion you were given?
Generally the changes weren't so major that I needed an outline. I would make notes to get things ordered in my mind. A lot of changes are "small" in that they only affect one scene (ie: the character's voice was off, or I'd suddenly start writing in present tense rather than past)

You are working on a new piece called I Get You, was your planning for that the same as for VT?
Pretty much. So much of IGY is character based, however. A lot of the planning is more "how much can I reveal of her true personality right now?" versus the romance of VT and the development of a relationship. I'm not saying that IGY has no romance. Not at all. The romance is simply less trouble to a perfectionist writer than the main character's secrets.

So, is outlining the only method of planning you use?
Mainly, yes. I do write synopses as well, but usually only as a first step to outlining.

Do you use the same method no matter what you're planning?
Yes. I outline even for short stories or school assignments.

Anything else you would like to add?
Just that what works for me doesn't necessarily work for other writers. Every writer should develop his or her own method as that is what will work best for them.

Thank you for your time Rachel, you have been awesome as always.

That last point Rachel made is very important. If I was asked about my planning my answers would be very different to Rachel's because I'm a very different person and I work in different ways. Find what works for you with planning and don't be afraid to experiment with it.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The dreaded lurgy

It got to last Thursday and i hadn't finished a single book and I hadn't filmed any of Friday's vlog and I figured I'd do lots of reading and filming on Friday. Best laid plans and all that...

I ended up really ill over the weekend with some flu like thingy so while I did mange to finish one book I didn't have the energy to film or blog about the book. And of course Monday was the day we realised that with just over 100 days to go we need to completely re-shuffle the wedding guest list and the roles everyone is playing in that. So I've had no time to do trvial things like explain the lack of Friday video and Monday post.

I have finished Before I Die and Just In Case and I will review them at some point soon but right now I have enough other stuff to be getting on with before I get round to that. Of course I say this and then write the reviews at 6am tomorrow when I can't sleep, such is my life right now.

Monday, 12 July 2010

It seems 'death' is a common theme...

Having read 6 of the 8 books I recently borrowed from the library I am amazed at how much death features in books which look cheery on the outside.

From the last lot of reviews, Numbers had several deaths in it, Bad Faith was about a murder, Never Bite a Boy on the First Date was also about a murder (and had vampires but they're more undead) and my recent 3 haven't fared much better. My recent ones also made me cry a fair few times, though I'm female so it could have been hormones as opposed to really moving writing... lets blame it on the really good writing.


The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Lots of death in this one and a couple of points that made me cry dotted throughout it (Especially the bit with Roe and the flowers). I had picked this up because it's been much talked about and I was surprised my library even had a copy. and I was a little bit amused by the fact this copy has a strange cover that you can flip so it's either Peeta or Katniss on the front.
Inside the back cover of this copy Suzanne Collins explains that the idea for The Hunger Games came from channel flicking between a reality TV show and war coverage. apparently the two got mixed in her mind and became this reality show where kids have to fight each other for survival, the winner being the last one left alive. Pretty twisted mix of Big Brother and Lord of the Flies.
I think the dynamic between Peeta and Katniss is really interesting to read especially when you contrast it against the other relationships Katniss has. And the fact Peeta and Katniss both see their relationship from different angles makes it all the more compelling to read. Seriously, go read it.


Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
This made me cry so much at the start... but I'll admit it was probably hormones. It's about a girl (Anna) and her best friend (Frankie) and how they cope with the death of Frankie's older brother who happens to have been secretly dating Anna before he died. Okay, maybe it was the writing that made me cry. There a lot of interesting relationships playing out in this one, mainly between the girls but also between Anna and the ghost of Matt that she seems to carry around in her head.
I've read a couple of other reviews about this one and one thing that seems to rub people up the wrong way is the flippant way Anna's virginity is talk about as if it's some kind of burden. These are teenage girls, one of them is severely acting out, how can you expect sex not to come up in a rebellious way? Also if you do make it all the way to the end it all falls into better perspective and is a whole lot less flippant than it seems for most of the book. (And if you have read it and are wondering what I'm on about, compare Frankie's 'first time' with the feelings Anna has for hers). This is a book that really highlights the power relationships have over us. T'was a very good read even if it did make me cry a lot.


Nobody's Girl by Sarra Manning
I've just finished this one and to be honest I wasn't sure I was going to make it to the end. I started reading it last Tuesday but kept putting it down to read something else. It took me till this morning to get past page 100 (of a 360pg book). The problem I has was that the back of the book tells you that Bea goes to Spain and then quickly detours to Paris. She doesn't get to Paris until at least half way through the book but one she does it picks up a lot.
It took me about 4 days to read the first 100 pages and about 4 hours to read from there to the end. It does get a lot better once she gets out of Spain. Of course I then spent part of the end of the book wanting to strangle Bea for being a complete idiot but I think that's the point.
There is an interesting contrast between the relationship Bea's mother was in when she was 17 and the relationship Bea is in at 17. If you focus on Bea and Toph and that relationship then it is a decent book. However it's not something I would pick up to read again as I personally found it very slow going in a few places thought this could have been because I really didn't like the girls Bea hangs around with for the first 100 pages.

So there you go, 3 new book reviews. I may start making Monday book review day, though I can't promise 3 books every Monday.

Friday, 9 July 2010

The secret revealed.

Okay so it's Friday, just... got another hour or so over here before it becomes Saturday, and I promised to reveal my special change.

The biggest changed this blog is under going now that I have me new project is this. Go on, follow the link, I'll wait.... you done... watched them both... know what's going on? What do you mean 'no'?

So I've decided to keep a video diary of my writing process as I go through from the conception of the idea to planning to first draft writing...etc, etc. You can follow on here for extra bit and book reviews and things as well of course but there will be weekly videos over there. Probably a new one every Friday until I get into it and can do more.

There you have it, that an exciting enough change? No? Tough.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Death, Religion and, well, more death

Since Friday when I attempted to raid my libraries YA romance section and failed to find much that is strictly 'romance' I've read 3 books. Okay maybe not romance books but books with YA relationships which is what I wanted to focus on anyway. So here are my quick reviews of what I've read so far.

Numbers by Rachel Ward
I picked this up because Race had mentioned it at some point and I thought it sounded interesting. The story is about a girl called Jem who can look at a person and tell the date they are going to die. She gets into a couple of scrapes and ends up on the run with her friend Spider.
I found it hard to relate to the characters at first, yes I grew up in the rough part of town but I was to much of a geek to go hanging around street corners like Jem and Spider. They're what I would call 'urban' kids; they spend more time hanging around on the streets than they do inside any building, except perhaps the police station. Once you get into it though and learn more about Jem and her story it becomes easier to like her and to hope that, despite it all, she comes out all right.
One of the things that struck me was how her relationship with Spider develops. At the start she yells at him for complimenting her but as it goes on they become closer. They're relationship almost runs parallel to that of the reader and Jem, at first I thought she was very stand-offish and unlike-able but over the course of the first half I got to know her more and like her more.
There is a second book in this series and I'm hoping I'll be able to pick it up at some point to read because I really enjoyed this.


Bad Faith by Gillian Philip
I read this while staying with my fiancés parents, his dad is a minister, it was maybe the wrong book to take.
It's set in a dystopian Scotland (though that took me most of the book to work out) where the One Church rules over all and it's militia keep the peace by killing of the infidels who speak out against the One Church or the 'Mother of the Nation' (Prime Minister) that it has put in place.
The MCs here is Cassandra, daughter of a One Church rector and her friend Ming (short for Menzies, pronounced Ming-us. Just be glad his second name isn't Smillie pronounced Smiley, he certainly is. Silly Scottish names) who are not dating, or at least, not supposed to be because it's very much against the rules. Especially since his parents are known infidels.
So the popular Bishop Todd goes missing and Cassandra and Ming find the body, Cassandra decides they have to hide it because she's sure that her dad has killed the Bishop and that's not going to have a happy outcome.
The relationship in this is just kind of 'there' and seems to be more part of the setting than part of the plot, though there is one bit near the end that had me near tears (and skipping ahead to see what happened) because of the devotion shown. Mainly it's just a book about a murder in a dystopian society. Though it does seem like every character you come across ends up dead, or having played a part in killing someone or having played a part in covering up the murder. That's fine though, it provides lots of interesting little sub-plots.


Never Bite a Boy on the First Date by Tamara Summers
I picked this up purely because of the description on the back cover. I was expecting some cheery mockery of Twilight, I was pleasantly surprised to find I was wrong.
Kira is a new vampire and shes made some mistakes in her past, okay, only one and his name is Zach and no one is ever going to let her live that down for the rest of her...um... unlife? There's been a vampire attack at her highschool and she is obviously the first to be blamed by her vampire family so she barters for a week to try and work out who was actually behind it because it wasn't her. Along the way she meets 3 cute but suspicious boys; Rowan, Daniel and Milo.
Okay so there's not so much relationship stuff going on in this, though she does date all 3 on the same weekend there's nothing deep and meaningful going on. But i did enjoy this book. It was light and funny and I totally loved Kira's voice. All the books I've been reading lately have been first person but this one really made you feel like you were inside the head of a 16 year old girl throughout the whole thing. It's definitely a book I would recommend if your looking for something cheery and different to your usual.


So there you go, 3 book reviews for your pleasure and all typed up before breakfast. I am being productive.

YA romance, libraries, books and more on changes

So my new project is a YA romance. Those of you that know me will know I have a dislike for YA romance, mainly because I think it's full of clichés, 2D characters and predictable plots. So I asked the people of at AW for some book suggestions of must read YA Romance books. I got quite a good response so armed with my list I set of for the library on Friday.

Now my local library was refurbished earlier this year so it's youth section has cool chairs and new shelving and looks quite good and inviting now. They also moved it to the more windowed area away from the cafe which helps. Now, there's a kind of obvious divide between the non-fiction and the fiction section down there and the whole thing is kinda centred on the children reading corner and the books seem to go from baby books in next to the readers area moving further away as the reading age increases. So I had a rough idea of where to look. The problem is, when they re-did the library they decided to put up cool little signs on top to the shelving units. These signs do not say helpful things like 'Fantasy', 'Sci-fi', and 'Romance'. Oh no, that would be too easy. They say 'Discover', 'Explore', 'Imagine' and 'Inspire'. Now which one does YA romance fall under?

Eventually I pulled out a total of 8 books from various shelves and brought them home to read. I got:

Numbers by Rachel Ward
Bad Faith by Gillian Philip
Just in Case by Meg Rosoff
Nobody's Girl by Sarra Manning
Before I Die by Jenny Downham
Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Never Bite a Boy on the First Date by Tamara Summers

So far I've read Numbers and Bad Faith and I loved both of them. Okay, maybe not strictly romance books but they both featured relationships that were central to the plot. I'll review them both tomorrow or Thursday so stay tuned for that.

As for the special changes I promised I'd explain more about... well, I really want to wait until Friday to officially announce it. I will say it has to do with my new project and it will link to this blog and it should give you another way to interact with me as I work on the project.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Ch..ch.ch..changes!

Some of you may have noticed the new blog look but theres one other thing about the page that has changed. Do you see it? Try looking to the left. There you go.

While To Have a Name is a fun project and it it something I plan to go back to eventually, I'm now working on a new project.

This one is YA romance and within 48 hours of the original idea had an entire cast of complex characters and sub plots and exciting twists and turns. There are 4 amazing female characters and a whole load of brilliant boyfriends (and a girlfriend) as well as parents and teachers and a couple of brothers. Everything is still very much in the early stages and I'm really hoping that this one progresses further than the other projects currently living in the trunk. We shall see.

I'm off to tidy my floor so I can do some more planning. Check back soon though because I may have another exciting change to inform you off in the next few days if it all goes well.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

New technology

Today I have me some new technology.

For a while I've been looking for a replacement for my old laptop. Last week I managed to clear most of my credit card bill so I decided it was about time that I had a serious look at what was available. Not only did I find something that I could afford but it's got a lot more cool features than my old laptop.

I decided to go with a TC1100 tablet. It does all that I need it to do (mainly word processing and checking emails) plus it's a whole lot lighter than my old laptop. It's got no cd drive built in to the main part but it came with a docking station that has the cd drive in it and the ability to connect it to a larger monitor. The tablet it's self is obviously touch screen and swivels to the side to reveal a decent sized keyboard. While using the touch-screen I can actually hand write straight onto the screen and have it covert it into text. I'm really looking forward to using that feature at tutorials.

But this blog isn't just about a new bit of equipment, oh no. this new bit of equipment will be used for 2 purposes. For my study to give me something portable that I can take and store notes on as well as writing essays. And for my writing which I'm slowly getting back into. So expect some new excerpts and this appearing over the next while as I get myself back into the swing of writing.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Beeing Buzy... BUZZ!

Lots of changes happening right now. Lots of things going on that I'm getting excited about and some that I'm less excited about but still happy with.

The start of this month marked 150 days until my wedding (we're now at 137). There's a lot of planning and emailing and spending and budgeting going on surrounding that which is taking up a surprising amount of time. And my soon to be brother-in-law is also engaged so 6 months after I get married (gaining 2 brothers) I also gain a sister which is cool.

I'm also slowly working on THaN again and at some point this week plan to print Shadows to get started on the edits and rewriting that needs done there. I'm debating starting a new project but there's nothing really jumping up and down yelling 'Write me!" at the moment so probably best not to do that. Having said that there may be a collaboration project* going on between me and Race at some point, which may yield either textual or visual results, you'll have to stay tuned to find out.

Due to reshuffling of my bookshelf, the Eden Project folder is now more accessible so there may well be some more writing added to that. At the moment it's all hand written though so I'm not sure if I want to keep writing by hand or type it up and then work on it some more. The eventual plan is to send it to Race (she is getting mentioned a lot today... I need more writer friends) to help with the edits since the whole thing was her idea. It'll probably be next year before I can move it on to the next stage, but do look out for it cause it's going to be awesome. I should probably add planning the last half of it to my to-do list though instead of trying to wing it cause that could end in disaster.

Well, that's you're lot for today. I shall try to update a bit more often from now on though don't count on it. I also have studying to do and housework, and exercising and... you get the idea.


(Yes the title is a joke which probably only Race understands.)

*If you really are interested in this let me know as we may well expand it a bit.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Inspiration

Here is an extract from THaN:

Each slaved washed from head to toe and pulled on their clean uniforms, setting the others aside to be washed when they returned from the ceremony. M4 slipped behind M6, running a finger along one of the straps on her top, straightening it out and sending a chill down her spine. Beside her she heard M2 sigh, no doubt she had seen M4's move.

Want to know the inspiration behind it? A Swimsuit. That's right, the whole idea of the slaves uniform came from a swimsuit I owned at the time. It had straps that started of braided then once the were over the shoulder came apart and interlaced before ending separately at points along the back.
Here's another extract:

As she stretched to clean the next shelf the criss-crossed straps of her slave uniform moved to fully expose the Raven brand on the back of her shoulder. This movement was noticed, but not commented on by a balding old man who sat on a stool in the far corner of the room.

That slave uniform is there but so is a new location. The inspiration this time came from a session of cleaning out a serving area at work. Thought it wasn't an old man on the stool behind me it was my boss and she was on the phone.
And just for fun have a third extract:

As the other slave finished tying the bandage he reached up to wipe a stray tear from her face, his warm hand soothing her mind. Raising her eyes she sighed and opened her mouth slightly, perhaps to thank him. He leaned forward, cupping her face in his hand. She gulped slightly moving slightly closer. Her eyes locked on his, the feeling behind them entrancing her. He closed his eyes slightly. The moment held, caught like her breath. And then it was over.

The inspiration for this bit? To many cheesy Christmas films at the end of last year.

Inspiration comes from many places and it can lead to many things. I always find it interesting to learn where people found their inspiration and why it turned into what it did. And it's worth remembering that inspiration truly can come from anywhere.
In just less than a week I'm travelling to America to visit two amazing fellow writers, I'll be with Race for a week and a half and Greeny for 2 and a half weeks. I'll see lots, do lots and no doubt come back with a notebook full of inspiration. Some of which will hopefully be used to continue THaN

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Creare's crazy contest.

Yes I know, I said no more posts till I have time but I have exciting news.

Yes more exciting than the fact I've learned to make doughnuts.

Yup, also more exciting than my impending trip to America.*


CREARE IS GIVING AWAY $150 worth of literary prizes!!! (yes it is worth 3 exclamation points)
You can check out the details here, it's all very exciting really and you should definitely join in.

*Though this is exciting in that I plan to do more writing and stuff so I may actually be posting when I come back.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Blog Hiatus

I regret to announce that FICWrites is going on hiatus.

I'm not sure how long for but I think it is silly that I feel guilty for not updating a writing blog when I am not actually writing at the moment. When I get back into the groove of writing regularly, I'll get back to posting regularly but for now this will be a place marker till I decide to come back.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Teaser Tuesday

Just a short one today as I'm trying to catch up on some studying.

The task was to finish a set sentence, here I've changed the sentence slightly and written 5 different endings all based on M6.

The day after my birthday, I was told...
  • I was to be sold.
  • that I was nothing more than dirt.
  • to stay close to my parents, but I never listened.
  • I was loved
  • I was lucky, but I couldn't see how.

That's your lot, I have Cleopatra mind maps to work on.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

What happens when I tidy.

As more and more wedding stuff arrives and needs storing I've taken to packing stuff away and clearing things out. This morning I went through 1 box, a magazine rack and a set of file drawers. Managed to sort everything from them into a little basket (for medicines) and the magazine rack (for the gifts I need for this year and some other oddities I need). I'm quite proud of myself.

In the process I came across a pile of paper covered in my wonderful scrawl. From what I can make out they're the exercises from when I read the 'Novel in a year' book by Louise Doughty. Random character biographies, bits written from different points of view. Some very strange sections including bits that have since been worked into THaN. So given I'm not really writing at the moment I thought I'd use them for the next few Teaser Tuesdays then, hopefully, I'll go back and re-do all the 'not-a-teaser' stuff and finish that finally. Sound like a good plan?

Anyway, I've no got junk scattered across my floor so need to go and bin the most of it and tidy away the rest.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Ughness

I know, I know, I was supposed to post last Wednesday. I had a whole post planned about books and stuff (Books like the one you can win in Race's contest here), but there have been wedding issues and an essay on the Victorians eating my time. If I can I shall post my bookness post this Wednesday and hopefully I'll post a teaser tomorrow, probably another exercise from my course.

time to go write more about the Subjection of Women...yay!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Teaser tuesday

This is a teaser with a difference. It's M6 looking back at her friendship with M4. I wrote it for one of my University assignments.


He startled me when he came in; I had not expected any of the others to be back so early. I remember staring at his tear stained face as he stood there, just as startled by my presence. Despite the tears; he was male and memories of stories flickered through my mind. I backed up, pressing myself against the worktop. He looked stronger than me, I knew I would have very little hope if he attempted anything so I just stood there, waiting.

He motioned to the cut on my head and asked, in such a soft voice that I thought he was afraid of me, if I would like some help to tend it. I said nothing but simply moved aside to reveal the medical kit I had out on the worktop. I studied him as he walked towards me and drew out a stool to sit down. He was taller than me, maybe only a year or two older. His hair, what little had grown back since it had been shaved off, was the colour of straw. And his eyes, years of staring into those eyes and I still get lost in them. His eyes where red with crying. Droplets of tears caught on his lashes and not yet brushed away kept my attention as he started to clean the cut. My fear began to fade.

I was surprised how gentle he was. His hands themselves were rough, as if he had worked outdoors before being brought here, but his touch was soft. He spoke in a low calming voice while he worked, cleaning and bandaging my head. He never did explain why he had been crying, or why he was back early. In the five years we shared I never once got an explanation for that. He asked how I had got my injury and I explained that I had answered one of the Officer’s questions using contractions. He simply nodded. The mark of a well trained slave is well trained speech.

He told me about the family he had lost, I asked him to take a look at a wound on my knee. It’s strange how friendships are formed. Even as the others piled in to prepare for bed we sat talking, exchanging small bits of information about ourselves and growing closer. We had both though we had left behind all hopes of friendship when we arrived here. Now we had each other.

I remember the last time I saw him, the rich family buying him to look after a dying relative. In five years our friendship and grown deeper and transformed into something we never expected. And there we were, only a few days after admitting our true feelings we were being pulled apart. He would go with this family and I would in turn be sold and sent somewhere else. It’s strange, looking back, to think I was so afraid of him at first and then grew to be so afraid of loosing him.


Tune in tomorrow when I'll be blogging about books and book give-aways (such as Race's at http://thecreare.blogspot.com/2010/01/book-giveaway.html )