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


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.