Tag Archives: writing

Do the Olympics inspire you?

4 Aug

Proud to be British? With olympic fever grabbing the nation its hard not to be. Watching the athletes compete not just for their country, but for their own personal hopes and dreams, you can’t help but feel inspired. Watching that final push to gold, you feel their desire and it catches you in the throat. What an honour for us to be able to experience their moment.

I have spent time with people recently that perhaps aren’t part of my usual crowd. this has led to variety of conversation, and ultimately talk of where we hope to be in the future. An example of this would be the question posed to me, ‘What needs to happen for you to be ready to retire?’

Ok, so I am only 30 so that is totally a long way off, and maybe somewhat naively, not something I have ever considered. Having at this point in the evening been in receipt of one or two (OK that would be a blatant lie) cocktails, my flippant response was, ‘oh, ok, ultimate dream would be to be featured on Richard and Judy’s book club.’

Now, calm down. It was a flippant response, and I am sure even just to complete a novel would be a nice thing, but for an off the cuff answer, it made me question how  hard am I working towards that?

Woah. I’m not. Not even slightly. I am however, and this is the crazy realisation, working towards my day job.

Whenever I think about my future, my end goal, the point of happiness (like im not crying into my corn flakes each morning but you get what I mean), I am the proud author of a bestselling novel. When I sit down to write each day, I am working on my scripts, my thoughts are consumed by how I can portray my idea within a script, how I will be different, a bit clever, what twist I can add to make it stand out from the crowd.

I am, a script writer. And that is just fine.

But fine is not enough. I can do scripts, I really enjoy doing scripts. I would love to have a script commissioned, but the dream was never to be a scriptwriter. It was always about the novel. the cheesy photo on the back cover, and yes, the well turned dog-eared corners of the pages.

A novelist I may never be full-time, but I can be a scriptwriter. That doesn’t mean I can’t still work towards the dream. It will just be allowed centre stage once I have the day job. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. Little steps and all that.

Watching the olympics, I have no idea who these athletes are. I mean, on the first day I had a call saying watch the BBC, your cousins in the rowing race. Really? (fact!) I have not been part of their journey, many I know, have competed in the olympics before, but it never registered on my radar. What is registering is the end of their journey. I feel heartache for them when they go out, and absolute joy when they win. I am screaming at the TV, I’m swearing at the athletes that try to challenge the British (Like seriously, step back guys), I am playing ‘olympics’ in the garden with the kids…I am stealing this enthusiasm and keeping it for my own dreams.

So what about you? are you proud? Regardless of nation (apologies for my step back comment), are you behind your athletes? Can you understand their determination sand apply it to your own dreams?

Taking a side step from your greatest dream is nothing to be ashamed of. I am certain many coaches are supporting the athletes, having never been able to realise the dream for themselves. Side stepping doesnt making you less of a person, side stepping shows you understand your strengths and weaknesses. Self belief is vital for your determination, denial will fail you.

Fear. What is yours?

31 Jul

Fear.

Fear is the emotion that stops us in our tracks, prevents us from being what we truly want to be, stops us from being great.

I know many writers out there that have fear. They can’t share their work, and as a result it sits there, hidden away, never to be read by another.

I don’t have that fear. I have another one that I believe to be more crippling, and I wonder if any of you suffer the same?

I have never worried about sharing my work. In fact, the first time I wrote anything under the guise of ‘learning to be a writer’, I shared it within the children’s writing lecture that took place two days later. This was within my first two weeks at university.

I am the creature that writes and shares before it has undergone the first edits. I believe in my writing that strongly, that I know if something has ‘legs’ as the words are typed. If it is a struggle, it is wrong.

Of course editing is required, but I just want to share with everyone my latest piece of work. I am proud of what I do, and for that, I have no shame.

I explore genres, techniques, nothing is out-of-bounds. There is no limits to what I can do (and you for that matter). Writing is not just the setting down of a story, it is an experiment, a journey. One which cannot be taken without risks.

I identify my strengths, my weaknesses and I use them equally. Quietly pushing myself for the next challenge.

It is when thinking about that next challenge that I experience the fear. It’s like stepping off the cliff face. What if, just consider this for one moment, what if this time my self belief has blinded me. What if, my safety net, the one that slows my process when it is not simply great, does not catch me?

As I have said before, I do not plan. I do not sit there etching it all out, character bibles, plotting, synopsis, sub plots and the rest before beginning. Oh I think, I think a lot, generally starting with one idea and stretching it across, exploring within my mind the possibilities before I start. It is rare I make notes during this process. I have always believed if the idea has ‘legs’ the story will carry itself. Finalising details, checking the  story arc is there, ensuring character consistency is there all comes later. I believe many call this first part of what i do ‘passion’. I write because I feel it inside, a story bursting, a want, a release of emotions.

When I sit down to write, I already know if this is a script, short story, or hopefully the latest bestselling novel. When I try to fight this (see the disaster that was the uncompleted No Way Out Challenge) it grates, it physically hurts, and I feel myself hiding from the crowds. The only situation I can liken this to was taking my son to school when he begged not to go (I pulled him out eventually but that’s another story).

Fear is where I stand now. I have three ideas. all workable. two are scripts, one a novel. The daredevil in me is shouting try the novel. Not only have i never completed a full novel, the idea formulating is romance based, chick lit if you prefer. I have never written chick lit. The scripts are comedy based again, so they feel safe. I am still driven by my confidence in my previous one. Yet that could have just been fluke. Either way, what if I have lost my ability? What if I am the one hit wonder?

So tell me, what is your fear? What is the part of you that makes your writing career stutter?

***Without sounding conceited I am not a one hit wonder. I know this from professional feedback. Likewise I have not as yet been successful. I have not previously completed a novel as each one I have started has been abandoned due to other commitments at that time. The fear I speak of prevents me returning as it is the same psychological thought process***

Oh, you are a cancerian too (gulp!)

29 Jul

During my break from blogging, I celebrated my 30th birthday. It is official, I am now a grown up.

Last year following my birthday I wrote a post about horoscopes and chorizo. Being that time again, I feel it is time to embark on this pondering, especially in light of new acquaintances.

Bear with me, this is related to writing and character development, which just shows how much the ‘writer’ in me has matured in the past year.

In the past year I have had a close friend (lets call her Bobo)  that like me is a cancerian. It is safe to say we are a bit of an odd team in terms of where we are in life, as well as in age. The fact that Bobo shares the same star sign has never really risen to the surface, her birthday is in June, mine in July, we are just good mates.

My son started school last year. For any of you that have ever had to face the school playground you will be aware of the various groups that gravitate towards each other (watch out on my special post on the witches coven). As it goes, there were a few of us that mingled around the edges eventually clinging onto each other. Oh my, of that crowd, the three standards, myself, mum A and mum B (names protected for safety reasons) all share a July birthday, all cancerians.

What a nice coincidence. It means we can all go out and celebrate our birthdays together. Makes it more special I think.

Character traits have shown through over time and more and more I have found myself intrigued by how similar we are. Not in the ooh we like shoes type of way, but more of an oh, that is how I would react. I can identify with hopes and dreams, disappointment and rejection. It’s good to have friends that are like you…or is it?

I realised very quickly at this point that Bobo is also the same as Mum A and Mum B. At work, two colleagues of mine hinted at a weakness. As I sat there listening all I could think was, ‘oh, you are such a cancerian’. Both colleagues are cancerian.

Safe to say I freaked. all my life I have only had one friend that was also a cancerian, and we separated ways at the age of 15. Sure kids at school had June/July birthdays, but I was very rarely drawn to them.

Why was I freaked? I thought I was unique. An anomaly in the way I thought and acted. At times I genuinely thought I must have something wrong with me, no self-help book would ever work for me…nope I am normal. I am a typical cancerian, and these people, they are too. What this means however is a desire in me to run and hide. If they think the way I do, that is too much for me to handle.

What does this have to do with writing you ask. Well, my love for character bibles and the such has just taken an unexpected twist. When I started reading about cancerians, I realised I had my start for every character bible. Cheating? Not really. I was always told to give my characters a month of birth, I never understood why. Now it has become clearer.

How does this make me a more matured writer? Simply it shows I am studying other peoples traits and analysing them. Trying to understand what makes them tick. What part of them makes them break the norm, be unrational, remain calm in stressful situations. Developing characters is much more than knowing they have a lisp and blonde hair.

Obviously there are cynics that do not believe in this. That is fine. As I have said before, I am not a great one for following this, I certainly wouldn’t at this time be able to say ‘oh you are a typical…’ as I have heard others do. I do however, believe after these past few weeks that there is something behind these signs. I know nothing of the history, and honestly, I do not have an interest to learn. All I know is of the seven of us that I refer to, we are all typical of the cancerian sign. For now, for me, that is enough.

Oh and a word of warning, if you are a cancerian, and you see me running, it’s because I am afraid,  after all, I know what you’re thinking.

***So I dont know what you are actually thinking, but I know how you will react***

Ooh, so that’s a writing tool!

23 Jul

Have you ever used writing tools?  Not like a pen and paper, no I mean a dedicated programme. Dedicated software to make your life that much easier?

Well up until the last script, I had only ever downloaded a programme. I think I may have opened it, but I never used it. I think I may have decided it was far too complicated and learning hoe to use it would hinder my progress, after all, I want that story on the page NOW. (Not to mention the fcat that I am rubbish at technology – I don’t even have an iTunes account!!)

I guess my initial reluctance was my want to be traditional. Once upon a time all you had was  a pen and paper, before that, well, you know how it goes. The greats had to work without, why shouldnt I? Well simply the greats can go do one. Just because it was hard for them, doesn’t mean I am going to make myself suffer.

So, yeah, Microsoft word has been my companion. To be fair, I am happy with it too. I don’t need anything else. Well my pad and pen to make notes I guess, but to be honest, I’m just not a great note taker.

I digress. When writing the script, simply I got annoyed. Annoyed with scrolling and scrabbling around for bits of paper, it bugged me it wasnt in front of me each character description. I am ashamed to admit it, but when I started writing two of my characters kept getting muddled, checking who was who was a pain in the backside, however it did show a major flaw in my writing.

I downloaded Celtx.

Celtx is a free script writing tool. It takes the hassle of layout and just allows you to write, sorting the formatting as you go. You can add notes, edit sections to save for later, as well providing the tools for creating notes about your character (yep, those all important character bibles I always talk about) and the best bit for me, tools for providing descriptions of each of your settings.

It may not be the best, but for me, it was invaluable. I loved jumping from one scene to the next, having a sidebar showing the titles of each scene so you have a reminder at a glance,  and this is just the bits I used. I didn’t explore the software fully, that, remains, a task for another day.

There was one flaw. I exported the completed script into word, at with point I had to play around with the layout. It was acceptable, but I think this just came down to preference, and I just saw it as an extra editing exercise.

So how about you? What tools have you used?  I ask with genuine interest. I am wondering if part of my past lack of dedication to writing has been contributed to by my making, as in, I have making my life unnecessarily difficult by rejecting anything but word. So please, do share.

**If you are not familiar with my blog you will not know that although I complete work, I tend to give up on a lot, midway, due to disengagement, oops!**

 

So Long, Farewell

30 Apr

I have been out this evening at a BBC Writers Room workshop. It was very interesting – and i now have just short of ten weeks to write a script.

I spoke with some ‘writer’ friends, it has been a while since we were all together…

General conclusion is to say goodbye to the blog, it is too distracting when my free time is too precious.

I plan to return mid july, or at least revise my decision at that time. For now however, I wish you all the best of luck in your writing.

Speak to you all soon!

‘Stop talking about it, and go and write, as simple as that’ –  Russell T Davies

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!!!)

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.