This summer I’ve almost written an entire novel

Ever had so many ideas for stories in your head that you feel like you might just explode?

I have but it was mostly when I was teen. Lately, I’ve been picking up the pace a bit more and it feels amazing for my creative head space.

So far, I’ve had three novel ideas. That is, for young adult fiction – the market I desperately want be in. I’ve had a couple of ideas for a sci-fi novel or two as well. But these require a lot of research and I’m not sure my brain’s cut out for all that right now. I’m thinking perhaps in my late twenties is when I’ll hit my sci-fi writing stride. A lot of my ideas involve space travel, time travel and if I’m really indulgent then a little bit of dinosaurs too. But I’ll save that for another time.

Anyway, I’m getting off topic.

So, like any writer does, I scribble these ideas down. I have an abundance of notebooks. And these tiny put-away-like-they’re-nothing ideas that might someday turn into something I keep hold of. You never know. One day these put away thoughts might well hold the key to my success.

I’m writing a novel right now – a Y/A one which I actually and genuinely love. I think, for a little while, I forgot what it could be like to let yourself get lost in fiction and how it feels for a project or a story to completely engulf your own world, for it to be all you think about.

I’m ashamed to admit it but as I got older I lost that creative bubble I used to never peep out of. I thought this was normal. I slowly became focused on the editorial side of writing that my fiction world consequently never even got past page 20 because I would slam it so hard it couldn’t fight hard enough to breathe. I was, to use a cliche, my own very worst critic.

I was beyond brutal with my own writing.

But this summer I’ve conquered that bad habit. I’ve been writing. (Ergo, sorry for the lack of posts). I’ve been getting lost in my own fiction world and I’ve almost successfully written an entire novel over the course of this long, hot and notoriously beautiful summer. (I live in Cornwall, so almost every day is beautiful here, yay!)

(A view from just over the road where I live)

I even signed up as a camper at Camp NaNoWriMo and even though I always seem to do this and it never usually gets me very far, this time I stuck at it and I completed my goal of writing over 10,000 words in a month. I can’t tell you the joy I got over achieving that goal.

For me, it was pretty phenomenal. So I’m carrying on with it.

You ever read a book and think, ‘I could’ve done better than that’? Well, it turns out that I’m doing it, even if only just to say that I’ve written a complete novel.

I don’t want to be someone who waits until their retirement to get everything out onto the page. I want it now.

I know that when I’ve finished, that’s when the hard part really begins which is the editing process. Apparently, this is where a lot of the real writing gets done, to quote the theory books and all the other famous writers out there.

But I’m moving forward. I’m at just over 46,000 words so far and I’m probably not going to stop until I hit 80,000 which is the average length of a complete novel. As well as that, I’ve also found the time to submit to other writing competitions. I’ve hit a productive writing/creative streak and it’s not stopping.

My thoughts in general are that this summer has been a blessing. But in the end, I know, it all comes down to yourself.
Your motivation.
And whether you believe in yourself to do it.
And maybe if you can’t, then find someone else who does. Ride their motivational current to get yourself where you need to be.

You never know, it might be worth it in the end.

So, be right back. I’m novel writing!

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Last night I met Sarah Winman

Last night I met Sarah Winman, author of bestselling novel When God Was a Rabbit and the recently published A Year of Marvellous Ways. The first time I read When God Was a Rabbit I was mesmerised and immeasurably hooked. I loved it so much I even cracked the spine a little bit (something I rarely ever do with books).

So I’m certain that A Year of Marvellous Ways will hold just as much magic for me as Rabbit did, if not more.

To meet an author – published, famous, and successful – always washes a tidal wave of excitement over me. And, of course, last night was no different on the crowded shop floor of Waterstones, Truro, the tiny capital city of sunnyside Cornwall. There was an informal interview between Sarah and a lovely employee of the iconic bookstore which weaved the stories of Sarah’s childhood memories, the people she’s known in her life and, ultimately, how the book and its characters came about.

I was captivated.

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The evening went on and, as she was talking, I became hugely gratified to discover that, when she writes a novel, she usually writes roughly 1000 words a day. This, for me, was monumental, in that while I am currently writing my own novel I also tend to write 1000 words a day.

(In no way am I comparing myself to this bonafide successful writer, but hearing those words gave me hope: it said, ‘I can do this!’)

It was truly a comfort in itself; knowing that an author like this also simply writes 1000 words a day and still gets the novel finished on time.

Because, you know, when you aspire to be a full time writer yourself, you always imagine bestselling authors to be hammering out 5000 words a day or more, scribbling page after page after page.

She read clearly and calmly, with just the right emphasis on the right characters when speaking their own dialogue. Her words written on the page and then spoken from her own mouth were entrancing and not even for one second did I actually find myself bored.

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To my joy, she signed my copy of her book which is now sitting on my shelf. And, not only this, but I asked her if she would sign my own journal; a notepad I use to scribble all my thoughts and story ideas in whenever I’m on the move. She complied and asked if I was a writer too. I told her yes, I was, and she listened as I spoke about my own fiction writing and the novel I’m continuing to write over the summer.

She listened.

Of course, I was in a queue so had to hurry along, but she gave me the utmost hope for my writing (not to mention a truck load of inspiration) and told me good luck with my writing adventures and said that, if I stuck to it, I could publish a book too one day (with a lot of hard work and torturous rewrites. I know.)

Everything takes a little bit of time and a whole load of patience, and most importantly, a great deal of work. As a current participant of CampNaNoWriMo, I’m mostly keeping to my word count goal of 500 words a day, if not 1000. Watching my stats go up is like watching a plant grow; it can be really, painstakingly slow, but the progress is still there and visible!

By way of word count, my goal is to have 36,000 words of my novel by the end of the month in total. But, the way I’m going, I’m hoping I can totally beat that!!

So, ultimately, here’s to Sarah Winman – on a brilliant and captivating debut novel and what I already know to be a truly wonderful second novel in A Year of Marvellous Ways, even though I haven’t read it yet.

Here’s to inspiration.

Gone With The Wind

Gone With The Wind. It’s the story of the dramatic upheaval of the American Civil War and the constant feuding romance between that of determined Scarlett O’ Hara and the taunting ‘soldier of fortune’ Rhett Butler. From this epic novel comes one of the most famous lines of dialogue in movie history:

‘Frankly, my dear, I couldn’t give a damn.’

I remember the first time I read this pinnacle of a book, bracing myself at almost every page turned, looking for the words that had become so famously recited from the star studded movie screen of 1939. It wasn’t until finishing the book that I realised I had to wait until almost the very end of the brick of a novel, yet when the moment finally came I was deeply and movingly satisfied.

I cannot begin to describe what this novel means to me. I can only try. But it is a novel I hope to read every summer – for the rest of my life – and it is a novel I would urge you to read as well. It’s just that good.

With an affirming love of the Deep South and anything to do with the land of Dixie, I found in this novel a sense of place and a sense of oneness. And above all, I found a story I could get lost in and find the past; a past I have never known or  experienced but nonetheless a past I hold a passionate interest in.

I have an internal attachment to it. I can’t help it. I know it might sound ingratiatingly schmaltzy, but it’s true.

I think, no matter what, everybody has that one book in their lives that means something incredible to them; that stirs something within their soul, that makes them feel something. It does not necessarily have to be a book. Perhaps it could be a film, a movie score or even just one plain and simple song. Anything at all.

We all need something to convey meaning in our lives and, sometimes, things like this can be it. We crave something that it gives us, whether we realise it or not. It’s a special thing and it works like magic.

Gone With The Wind is an historical epic; one story told and delivered through the generations.

Scarlett O’ Hara can be mean and spirited, yes; yet she is also a woman who knows what she wants and, when paired with Rhett Butler, she is no longer a wiley female temptress with glinting green eyes and a curving upward smile. He sees her for what she is and, knowing this, he plays on her vulnerabilities.

He is, to be sure, a cad, no less. But I love to see their relationship unfurl; how one minute she wishes to see him dead and the next she is wishing for him to take her in his arms and kiss her, like a girl wants to be kissed.

Far from a healthy relationship, they play against each other like animals and, throughout it all, I am devouring every page.

There can be no book like Gone With The Wind which matches up to its strength and entirety. It is, without a doubt, a book I will keep on my shelf for the rest of my life and, even if I don’t read it every single year, I will be happy, at least, just to know it is there.

‘Since its first publication in 1936, Gone With The Wind has endured as a story for all our times.’

This is, quite simply, how much I love it.

Creative Reflection on Writing

I’m nearly finished. My last creative submission is due in at the end of May. I’m nearly finished!

My second year at university has been the quickest academic year by far throughout the entirety of my full time education life! I’m upset and sad to see this year go by so quickly, really. Some parts of it has simply slipped away like running water. Like somebody’s left the tap on. But some part are echoed firmly in place, in my mind and in my writing.

Simply put, I have learned a lot from the past year. I have learned to be far more disciplined with editing (not only with my writing but also other people’s); to just write more and to actually try to finish what I’ve started. I haven’t only learnt things purely to do with writing though.

As a person and a human being, I have learned to let go. I’ve learned a lot about relationships and I’ve learned a lot about friends. I’ve learned so much about myself and done things I never even thought possible until only a few months ago. I have changed but I am still the same. In a way, I suppose I’ve grown up.

I can’t believe how far I have come compared to being a wide-eyed, naive and innocent first year undergraduate. I have spoken to and interviewed best-selling authors. I have completed an internship at a globally known enterprise. I have become more a part of a writing community and I have, of course, relentlessly been tweeting. (Not much has actually changed on that front). I’ve had little pieces here and there published – only very tiny things. But they still made me feel good.

I’ve become more of a writer than I ever have been and this summer I aim to get a lot more writing done.

So this year, I am reaching higher. Because, apparently, with experience comes knowledge, and with that comes confidence. I’ve realised that I am confident with my writing. And if I am ever lacking in that I know I can always go to my friends for help. We all get bad days, bad scripts, bad deadlines. But we work through them and if you know what you have achieved isn’t your best. then at least you know you can do better.

This is true for me because I know that my creative submissions for this last term could’ve been better. I was so frustrated with myself. I couldn’t get my ideas, my plot and my characters to really sparkle on the page like how they did in my mind. It just wasn’t working. I looked at other people’s submissions and despaired. I still tried to do the best I could. But, saying that, I know I could’ve done better. A lot better.

Creative distance gets you further. So if you know something is bad, then leave it. Then go back to it (Stephen King recommends six weeks – or is it months?) and you can pick apart the bad stuff that oozes bad writing from beneath the cracks. It might be hard, but it’s worth it. And it might take a long time, but it’s worth it.

I think writing is always worth it. Sometimes I really hate it and don’t know why I even think I can do it. But then I think about what else I would be doing and my mind honestly sweeps a blank. A complete tumbleweed moment with dust flying up everywhere too. Without writing, my mind is a black hole. And black holes are scary. I don’t want black holes in my mind, so I carry on writing.

Carry on writing, carry on writing, carry on writing.

Seeing other people have confidence in my own writing makes me believe a lot more in myself. Writers are always looking for attention, praise or encouragement and I guess I’m no exception. We shy away from criticism. But I’ve learnt to deal with it more proactively now. In fact, I always welcome criticism because I know no piece of writing is perfect.

I have been rambling, but all of this is important to me. I think it’s crucial to get a bit of creative reflection in your life, particularly when it’s something your own mind has created itself.

I’m writing today, between breaks of watching Harry Potter and doing basic things like showering and eating (these things usually get put on hold when I write), so for now I’m taking a break. But I’ll come back to it later.

Because you should always come back to your writing, even if you know what you have written is God-awful-ugly.

So good luck with your own writing and may your week be happy.

What Beautiful Days We Had

We thought we were so grown up sitting in that restaurant by the sea. Soft music played and fairy lights twinkled there at dusk. You put your hand over mine and laughed when I slurped the soup.

We had our beginnings in Cornwall. Now it’s time to watch you leave, to go on and make your life beautiful.

I always found peace here, yet you never could.


“Good luck.”

“You too.”

Hurlers

Hurlers. I wanted them to swirl, to lift me up with the wind, to dance like they used to. But all around them was snow. I gathered it up in my hands. I ran laughing and playing in the cold.

The dogs barked and I knew I was home.

Eventually, we climbed to the top of a boulder and our eyes found their way across the fields, the green and the ever-crowding trees.

I had strawberries and they tasted fresh in the age old land.

Hey, look, I’m writing!

This is my seventh cup of tea today while writing and planning and eating croissants. I’m having a productive day and I wanted to share that feeling with you all.

So far, I’m happy.

I’ve written 12,624 words of my novel and reached my goal of 500 words today. This is something of a struggle for me lately because I’ve been juggling my degree with friends, family, working for the magazine company I help run, and doing daily basic human-like things such as eating, washing and sleeping.

Oh, plus I read a lot so that too.

So I haven’t been able to write chunks of my novel so regularly as I would’ve liked. I know it’s a pathetic excuse, but where is the time? I’m trying to fix this and I love the feeling I get when I actually write it and revisit the characters I’ve gotten to know.

I write YA fiction which I love on many levels I just can’t explain. So I love my two characters who are hell bent on not falling in love, but do. Well, one of them, at least. I love their relationship and the dynamic it takes. They’re two of my favourite ever constructed characters I’ve created – and I didn’t even plan this novel.

Listening alongside to country and folk music gives me a release I simply just love. Silence can do this too. But today it is country and folk and I’m happy.

Who cares if I haven’t eaten properly today, or showered, or brushed my hair? Writing really does need to take priority sometimes.