Tag Archives: books

Me and Mr G…and Voodoo Dolls

25 Apr

In the past year I have been in the privileged position to work closely with a writer whilst he wrote his entire first novel.

From the first chapter, i provided feedback on plot, characterisation, language, continuity…proofreading. Not your typical way of doing things, but that is what we did. Last month, I received the final installment of this first draft. Much to both mine and the writers surprise, the word count exceeded 137,000 words.

Why am I telling you this?

Well obviously once this novel has gone through the full editing procedure it will be the bestseller of our time. It will rival the sales of Harry Potter, its series will be found in libraries in hundreds of years, hailed as a classic.

No not quite (although it is quite brilliant). This journey I have been part of has taught me a lot about dedication, commitment, and being in the real world as a writer.

You see, me and my writer friend, lets call him Mr G (ha) started our ‘writing careers’ at the same time. Where as I have embraced blogging and networking, Mr G has continued with his commitments away from writing, held down a part time job, and has just been accepted on a post graduate degree programme in creative writing.  Mr G does not have a family to care for, the need to work full time, the desire to have a career today as the years are passing by quickly. Other than wanting to write, mine and Mr G’s lives are very different.

So, what I did find surprising then, was that Mr G, with what to me seems like an eternity of time, did not write to a daily word count, did not measure his success on how much was achieved in an overall time scale, did not, well did not have any rules.

Mr G would take a couple of months off, then he would churn out multiple chapters on a daily basis. Mr G in September told me that he had to continue, he had got so far after all, and then didn’t produce anything until January. Mr G did not beat himself up.

Whats my point? Well, I have been pondering this whole blogging malarkey. I know, FACT, I don’t write like I should as I write my blog post when I get time. I also know, FACT, it is blogging that spurs me on. remember No Way Out, well nothing kills me more than knowing I haven’t written the next installment, eventually the guilt becomes such that I find some drive.

This is not a post of oh I have no motivation, oh I will write soon, whats the world coming to, not at all. This post is about embracing the diversity of our own approaches, to do things our way. We shouldn’t feel guilty for not writing. We should feel smug if we manage to churn out 5,000 words in one day. We should just feel how we feel, and not allow the pressures of the blogging community/twitter etc to make us feel we are doing something wrong. we should be pleased for fellow writers when they achieve something, not secretly stab pins in the makeshift dolls we have sat on the shelf above our computers….oh just me?!

(If you were the blogger last week chatting about writing goals give me the heads up – I wanted to include a link but can’t find you!!!)

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No Way Out – the Second Installment

13 Apr

Unedited first draft. Please offer your thoughts within the comments. First installment can be found here. remember this is your project as much as mine so we are looking for a) further plot developments b) inaccuracies c) HONEST opinions and anything else you want to add. If you haven’t been involved to date, check out the page above with a full list of related posts.

‘Take a seat,’ Charles commanded as Steve shut the door  behind him, before even reaching the round back chair, deliberately chosen to be uncomfortable and uninviting Charles said ‘I won’t dance with my words. We have to let you go.’

Steve finally sat, stunned. Surely Charles was having him on.

‘You may as well as clear your desk immediately. Your contacts have been transferred already. If you speak with Sharon, she has all your documents.’ Charles turned to his computer and began typing.

Steve tried to find his voice, ‘But..’

Sighing Charles turned to Steve. ‘Don’t make this harder than it has to be. Your sales record does not make you invincible. Our staff have to give 100%. Shut the door on your way out.’

Steve did just that. As he walked across the sales floor, he was reminded of the scene from Jerry Maguire. Tempted to ask who was him? But he already knew the answer. It was obvious. All of these people, the ones that had shared his champagne, frequented lunches with, they all smirked and turned away. It was laughable. He didn’t feel anything except pity. Pity for these people that worked for a company that didn’t care, and in turn had become soulless themselves. He knew their greed. He knew nothing mattered accept that next sale. He also knew they wouldn’t get it. There had only ever been one reason for his success, one reason why he stood above the rest, quite simply, he gave a damn.

Steve grabbed his jacket and keys, and left the office. No hugs, no farewells, and no regrets. They had done him a favour. It was obvious he and Poppy were entering a new stage, and what better way than to enter it without the trash of the past.

***

Steve ran down the stairs scooping Michael from the floor he ran from the house. Mindful of how sensitive Michael is, Steve bundled him into the car, with promises of a surprise.

‘What surprise Daddy?’ Michael beamed, the features on his face highlighted by a rosy glow.

Thinking on his feet Steve responded cheerily, ‘How does a play in the park followed by the nugget shop or pizza sound?’ Michael cheered and began to chat incessantly. Steve, as hard as he tried he could not listen, the images of the past few minutes crashed like a cannon ball around his head.

Pausing in traffic, Michael’s voice broke his thoughts ‘…and what about the shower Daddy? Didi the man fix it?’

‘What?’

‘Mummy said the man was fixing the shower. Did he do it?’

Steve swerved the car into the parking space. Snapping his seat belt he turned to Michael’ we’re here. Last one to the swings is a monkey.’

Sitting on the bench, Steve watched Michael play with two other children. He thanked his lucky stars that this was the case. He hated to admit it, but right now was not the time for him to be with Michael. He didn’t have the capacity to be a caring loving father, broken husband and recent redundee all at once. His luck couldn’t get any worse. But this wasnt his fault. He didn’t do all of this. It was her. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t rationale her behaviour.

It had taken him what now felt like a lifetime to realise what was happening before his eyes. Thinking rationally, he was sure it was barely seconds, but he wouldn’t stand in court and swear on it. The ruffled bed, the strewn clothes, the stranger with his wife before his eyes. When she turned, and realised he was stood there, on the threshold of the bedroom, she had smiled, a slow smirk of a smile, it hit him hard, it was the second time that day he had seen that look on the lips of those he was meant to be connected to.

The words had stuck in his throat, the emotions strangling him. He had connected with her eyes. They wasn’t cold, or filled with hate. No love no compassion, just empty. Needless to say he had never seen such blankness in her, or anyone else for that matter. It was like the life was gone.

Maybe that was it. Maybe the loss of their child had taken everything from her. Maybe there was more to her grief than what had been on show. It was often said that you hide the most from those you hold most dear. But, the smirk, the very deliberate smirk, she knew what she was doing. The whys where’s and how longs were questioned to be answered later. For now, all he knew for certain was that she felt no remorse for what she had done.

****

Poppy sat on the bed, wrapped in her dressing gown, knees hugged to her chest. The silence in the house was just that, silent. Outside the clouds moved across, the dusk beginning to settle around the house like the dusk did every night. There was no comfort in the darkening skies, just as there was nothing to hear in the silence. The world was, at least within the house, just nothing.

Knowing steve would return soon, had to return soon, did not drive Poppy to move. The voice that still gave a damn told her she should at least get dressed , remake the bed, but the naughty voice, the one that she had indulged for too many months now told her to forget it, what was done is done, and finally so.

She could already predict the conversations that were soon to take place, both to her face and behind her back. It will be the shock of what she had done, how her and steve had always been such a strong couple, think of Michael.

Well it was Michael she was thinking of. If it hadn’t happened now, it would have happened later. If left they would have argued and Michael would have witnessed that. He would have heard the awful words, the terrible accusations, felt the tension. As for those that would argue she should have tried, well she had. But it was quite simple, if you didn’t love someone, then no matter how hard you try, you cannot wave tinkerbells magic wand and be in wonderland. There may be such a thing as happily ever after, but it would never be with her and Steve. Cheating may have been cowardice, but it will certainly provide the opportunity to escape.

Looking around the room, Poppy critiqued it. From the cream and brown walls, to the thick pile carpet, to the intricately wove bedding, Poppy knew she was surrounded by luxury that very few could afford. It was a risk she had taken, but she knew these things, as much as she adored them, were not enough.  She remembered, she had practically begged Steve for the hardwood shutters at the window, the thought of not having them , not having the perfect home had just been too much for her to handle. How shallow she had been. And yet, she had been online, she had spoken to women in unhappy marriages, and all they wanted was just what she had, just what she was leaving. She didn’t think any less of these women, she couldn’t even begin to imagine what life would have been like had her and Steve been hard up, but what she did know, even without money worries, steve was not enough.

Standing, Poppy walked across the room, and swung open her wardrobe door. Stepping inside she saw the plaque that still made her laugh out loud, ‘All men are idiots. Better to be married to an idiot with money than without’. This time however, she wasn’t laughing from the memory of the purchase, or at the saying men are idiots but just the irony that she was married to an idiot with money.

Needless to say Steve hated the plaque, he wasn’t too fond of the ‘what if the hokey cokey is all its all about?’ plaq either, but they were her guilty pleasure, and they could be found in her wardrobe only. Her little sanctuary. As much as she loved her house, and frankly, who couldn’t, sometimes she wished she could be brave enough to throw some colour or quirkiness in. Conformity was where she had been at since being with Steve, but today was the first day that was going to change all that. She could feel it, like a bubble of recklessness fizzing around her insides, it escaped in the form of laughter, freedom, her mouth salivated, her eyes glinted with mischievousness, this was it, the time had finally come, feeling breathless Poppy danced to the music in her head, pausing to chew her lip, suppressing the scream of excitement.

Just Because I Write It, Doesn’t Mean I Do It

11 Apr

Yesterdays post was about learning about what you don’t know, to write what you do know. Today we are talking about the fear of telling what you dont actually know, but your reader believing this is your experience.

(That was quite a mouthful for an opening paragraph, apologies for that).

This is, I believe, is a rookie writers fear. I say that knowing full well I still awake in the night panicking that I have written something that may make others think differently of me.

Who cares you say, what does it matter? You are a writer, your job is to tell a story, it can’t always be ‘truly you’. But you must write what you know, and you must give a certain amount of your self to each  story – at least one of the characters must be you.

I think my head may explode with all the contradictory information out there.

Just because you write about an axe murderer, doesn’t mean you are slightly unhinged and could lose it and carry out your protagonists actions in the middle of the night – just because you think it, doesn’t mean you would do it.

Just because you write about airhead blonde girls who have a vocabulary of five words doesn’t mean that is a reflection of you.

Just because you write about a world where everyone has three hands and the sun is blue, doesn’t mean you have been there.

Just because you write about the death of a child and it makes your readers cry doesn’t show you are sharing a secret that no one knows about.

All of this, and everything else you can think of simply says one thing, you are a writer, and to be honest, if your reader believes you lived it, it means you are one of the best.

You can’t always write about what you know, as per yesterdays post, you can’t always tap into someone elses memory, but what you can use is your imagination, mixed in with a bit of empathy.

In my mind, all this leaves is our own demons, our own self doubt I guess. Can it be likened to our multiple personalities? You know, our face for friends, and our face for family? Is it the same demon that says I can’t post that on Facebook, I don’t want (INSERT NAME) seeing that. At what point, as a writer, do you have to accept by writing we are giving away more than the average joe. As a writer you aren’t tight-lipped, you are always talking, every time someone reads your work, your voice is speaking.

Have I lost you?

The point is, all of that contradictory information is correct. Writing is not like being a hairdresser. At best a hair cut lasts 4-6 weeks, a story lasts forever. You may have a good ability with a pair of scissors, but when writing you use your life, your experience, your memories, your observations, your heart your soul (add more cheese here). Every story is a bit of you, just not the whole you.

Writing What You Know?

10 Apr

Write what you know – Natasha McNeely spoke about this on her blog titled ‘Life Experiences: Why Not add Them To Your Book’.

Read the post, Natasha is very clever and has an idea to get you used to writing about, well, what you know.

I love writing about what I know, and for many writers that I have spoken with, we have in common a love for music for bringing past feelings back to the fore of our minds, to really encapsulate those emotions.

What if though, we need to write about something we have not experienced? How do we create those emotions, how can we make that scene not just real in our minds, but that it translates to the page also.

Obviously the first thing we need to do is research the particular topic. An example would be I was writing a YA novel with an autistic protagonist, not only did I need to have an understanding of autism, but for this piece, it involved a young offenders institute. I needed to know how such a place would affect a teenage boy with autism, reactions for both the protagonist, and those around him.

I have two full notebooks filled with information on this subject. It wasn’t enough though, my writing was limited as it was imagining an emotion, I couldn’t feel it, I couldn’t see it, it was just…bland.

This can be overcome by following step two, speaking with someone who has been in a similar situation.

There was one problem however, I neither knew a teenage boy with autism, or even just a teenage boy who had been in a young offenders. This particular piece has been put to one side. I may pick it up again one day, I like to think when I am a well-known author and people believe in my writing skills enough for me to ask them about such personal issues. as it stands, I’m just Ellie, wannabe writer but probably just a dreamer.

That doesn’t mean to say I havent employed these techniques elsewhere. Now I will share with you how you can steal those memories, those emotions, and make them your own.

I was writing a novel (unfinished, sigh) that involved a chase across Europe. I have visited many places, but to make the novel more authentic, I needed more experiences – I couldn’t afford to travel around for a while, so hijacking memories was my only option.

Fortunately for me, some friends of mine had found themselves stranded in Europe at the time of the Icelandic volcanic ash. On a mission to get home, they flew short flights, and took train journeys, spending each night in a different hostel.

Sitting down, I asked them to walk me through each hostel. From standing outside right through to the small little details such as the cracks on the wall. I wanted to know about staff, other visitors, the little tidbits of conversation overheard when walking by. It sounds simple, but this task can be somewhat tiresome. Some people just can’t get around to the idea of sharing every detail, thinking that, ‘it was tatty but friendly, oh and the walls were orange’ is enough information for you, but eventually they give you so much you couldn’t possibly include it all. Once you have gone through this process once, they are always eager to share, how many people truly want to hear another’s experience down to the finest detail? They get as much from this process as you, the writer does.

One word of warning, if they offer to show you photos, do NOT accept. It will completely ruin the process, that place you have just imagined will be stripped back to reality and the haze will be gone. Keep the haze, the haze is good.

How did this get published??

15 Feb

Taking a break from the No Way Out challenge, I thought today I would discuss the inappropriate use of language.

I say discuss, I am guessing this will turn out as a bit of a rant, but I will let you be the judge.

Now I am the first person to readily admit I often get words wrong, sound like a cockney, and I do tend to use 50 words when one will suffice, not to mention the swearing that tumbles out of my mouth as soon as I am out of work and child free.

Does this come across in my writing? Sometimes yes. You can tell when I have rushed my writing, it tends to be full of insignificant details, on this blog WordPress alarms go off left right and centre over my use of the passive voice, and I often miss my point.

However, when I am writing seriously, and I am taking the time to edit I am freaking amazing. It is no coincidence that I walked away with 84% in my dissertation equivalent. Writing is a skill, one we would all love to have, one many of us strive for. Unfortunately very few have a natural ability.

Most of us, and I include myself in this, have to work hard, understand we are not perfect, and respect the opinion of others when it just isn’t right. We must not just learn from the best, we must learn from each other (obviously in this circle we are all the best so its win win ha!).

From this hard work, for a select few, comes publication, a joyous moment in a writing career. That acknowledgement that you have done something, and done it well. Afterall, if you couldn’t fully develop your characters, have a full plot with natural subplots, have a way with words etc your manuscript would have ended up on the slush pile right?

WRONG!

It is absolutely shocking to me, that I know of so many very talented writers that are still unable to get published, when Waterstones (and all major bookstores, not to mention supermarkets) are stocking the most utter dreadful drivel.

Now before anyone gets on their high horse, I am not talking about genres. Each to their own is what I say, I am talking about writing style/ability/talent…

I have just finished reading a book. It was most definitely chick lit, and it was most certainly a light fun read. However I had a major problem. Well several actually.

The plot focused around a famous family with three daughters. We discovered the life of the parents, the careers and loves of the children, plus the two employees, the boyfriends (and girlfriends), the extended friends and family.

So many characters together resulted in a fight for presence on the page. We never truly got to know anyone, we just accepted the telling of the traits. Momentous occasions seemed to be brushed over, and frequently we were built up expecting something major, for it to just fall flat. Quite often all I was thinking was ‘is that it, all that fuss for this?’

I can’t honestly say we had a protagonist. I don’t believe I truly connected with any of it, but it WAS a page turner…to begin.

I think I was about mid way when I was shocked at the sudden use of the word ‘cock’. It wasn’t that the story hadn’t led to it, it just wasn’t required. It felt like it was on the page because hey this is chick lit and we use language like this, but the reality was, it did not suit the style of writing. After this first incident, it became more frequent the turns of phrase were inappropriately used. I felt that I had this confused expression until the end of story, which ultimately was a let down. It was kinda like reading a celeb mag but having no idea who the celeb was you were reading about.

I think my biggest issue is that I want to stamp my feet like a toddler and shout it’s not fair. Because it really isn’t. This book was poorly executed. It must have passed through so many hands before going to print how was it not picked up that this was just not good enough….and I am certain there are many examples out there that are even worse!

For me it makes a mockery of what us non published writers go through. Why bother plotting, planning, considering, researching, editing…just go write like an eight year old that is trying to impress the grown ups, that’ll do.

Whose Point of View?

12 Feb

When I am thinking about No Way Out, in terms of its development in how it is told, I have phrases (yes they are already bubbling under the surface) that would not fit into traditional dialogue. So if working this into a script, how do I get around this?

Traditionally if we are writing a novel, we have the freedom to explore the thoughts and mind processes of our protagonist. Should we wish, we can make them completely open, no secrets, no lies, a soul laid bare.

I entered 'soul laid bare' in google images and this is what I got. i thought it was quite emotive.

When scripting, we are to determine the thoughts either through the dialogue, a verabl expression or action, but there is always the chance they are holding something back from the audience, just as we ourselves may choose to edit our conversation. It is the classic sting in the tale, what is the narrator not telling?

I have two paths I am considering right now in terms of how I write this script. One allows for me to explore the depth of what the reader knows, the other is more traditional in its approach.

Option A

I like the fact that the short story was told in reverse. Taking that, I am thinking that Steves story is told from the hospital bed, where he is in a coma. We can return to the hospital bed from time to time, where we will see visits primarily from Michael (the son) and Becky (the cashier). These will interrupt the flow of the story just enough to allow it to take a sharp turn in what part is being told rather than being about the visit.  Steve will be the narrator of his own story in a kind of Shawshank Redemption style (though obviously not with that finesse – I may be good (ha ha) but not that good!

Option B

The alternative is to tell the story from Poppys (wife) point of view. I think this potentially could take us on a completely different journey and have our expectations and emotions turned on their heads in relation to what we would feel with option A. This story would start from Poppy having the miscarriage, and would not necessarilly require a narrator. We wouldnt know Steves thought proceses, just the devastation of his actions to those that ‘love’ him.

To make a definitive decision, I need to confirm the key plotlines that are to feature. This may sound a little strange, after all, we already have the story, we are just making a short long. No we are not.

I could just take the story and fill in the blanks, but I dont think that would be much fun. I have already drawn the conclusion that for me, if writing is a slog, that is how the story reads. Hence why we are mixing this up, playing around considering various angles. So…

I am going to write a synopsis. Now I am not very good at these, and as I haven’t fully decided which perspective this story is to be told from, it could potentially be too long and unbearable to be worthwhile. I am thinking that I should write several. Obviously they would be the same in many aspects, but likewise they will be very different.

Before I begin however, I would really appreciate your thoughts. Have you ever been in this position before? You know, questioned the perspective of the story? Have you any tips for getting round this?

The fuck it list, much more entertaining than a bucket list!

3 Dec

Today we going for something a little bit different, a change from the norm.

In the past weeks I read a very funny post that mentioned the idea of a ‘fuck it’ list. the list that should go with the bucket list. Now I would love to give credit to the blogger that came up with this idea, but I am sorry to say I have no idea! If it was you, speak up so I can share with everyone the wonders of your blog!

 

Before you read my list I want to say that this was incredibly difficult to do. It sounds easy right? What do you never want to do? Well, OK, I could have said, do a bungee jump, go camping for a month…but these would have just been completely random and unrelated to me. I have never thought I would like to do a bungee jump, so it can’t really go on this list. This list is about what I have often thought I should do or would like to do, and for one reason or another, I now think ‘fuck it’.

So here goes…

1) Maintain a beauty regime.

Like hello, have you met me? Have you seen the things I have to contend with in my life? Seriously, even if i was an unemployed singleton, would I bother with getting my nails done, hair treatments….a spray tan??!!!

I wear clean clothes, have a shower every morning and occasionally straighten my hair – and wear make up, what more do you want?

2) Wear Designer clothes

Ha ha ha, why oh why would you wear designer clothes? The amount my brother pays for a t-shirt I can replace my entire wardrobe. Now handbags, that’s a different matter…

3) Banish Junk food

Junk food is a must in my life. Hey, I worked at Pizza Hut for four years, that’s dedication to the love of the hut! But it’s not just pizza, maccy d’s, kfc, burger king, you name it, im there. No I will not apologise, and yes, I do eat my greens…ghekins count right?

4) Complete a Parachute Jump

Many of you may be aware of the story of my list of three things I had to do. when you are 16 you are fearless. I may not be double that age, but I certainly have triple the fear. You will NEVER get me jumping out of a plane, that’s a promise!

5) Read all the classics

Shoot me now. I know this wont go down well but yeah, classics may be great, but there are so many more gems out there that just do not get the credit they deserve. And, to be honest, the few classics I have read have been insanely boring – the only thing I can honestly say I have enjoyed is the BBC adaptation of pride and prejudice. Lets face it, that was all to do with a certain Mr Darcy than the storyline!

6) Be posh..

Yes I am the biggest snob, but dinner parties, black tie events, drinking refined wine – lets just refer to the points above. I would rather have a beer or four followed by a kebab if I am out. Given the choice though, I will always opt for a cup of tea, some chocolate and a few mates round for the evening. It’s not boring as so many believe, its good fun, and certainly beats redecorating your road on the way home. Back to posh though, I just cba. It is so pretentious…however I may retract this if I am ever invited to these types of events because I am just SO amazing lol!

7) Stick to my given view

As above! Tonight I am in one mood, tomorrow I will be in another. I am female. My choices are led by emotions, hormones and…well just because. I see it as my right, and who should tell me otherwise.

8) Complete a PHD

I suppose you could say this is on my bucket list, but as per item 7), this is now on here. I have so many plans and ideas, too many to implement…did I mention having purchased the URL for my company? I did this a couple of weeks back and that is as far as I have got. So no, at the moment, any kind of postgraduate certificate is simply not relevant right now.

9) Not be a complete bitch

It’s not going to happen is it? You guys know when I am in a foul mood and quite frankly I never try to disguise it. Take me as I am.

10) Stop drinking black coffee

I would say this is the most important item on the list. Having had porcelain veneers several years back, the whiteness of my teeth is a major issue. Quite frankly, I have very british teeth and ruining them with black coffee should not even be up for discussion, actually, tea, coca cola..they should all be banned. But, and this is the big but, should I be opting for vanity over enjoyment? especially when you consider the cost of my teeth? absolutely not, never in a million years.

Simplicity at its best - no faff, no pretending, just 'coffee', and yes, I do buy it in bulk!

 

Item ten on my list sums up my overall thoughts on this blog post. Life is to be enjoyed, wasting times on these various points because you are made to feel like you should is just not on. If you want to paint your nails because you like to, then you should. If it is because sat in your office you feel slightly inadequate because of the polished women around you is not on. Be you, be what you to be, and have fun doing it!