Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The Power of Notebooks

I write. I try to write something every day, even if it's just a couple lines that I store away, unsure if they will ever be used.
I have ideas, so many ideas that my friends can't keep up. They wonder how my brain can process them all. I say that it's easy, but of course I would, I've become used to living with myself. Most days at least.
I have written two completed books, of a series I'm working on, and the first I've just finished its final round of revisions (Final for now anyway). I have about 15 other novels planned, and lots of extracts written for each.
Sometimes I wonder if I should stop, but how can you when something hits you? And it really doesn't go with what you're currently writing, but you know it's so good that you can't let it pass you by, to be forgotten. So that's why I write down every idea that I have.
This is the reason I own 40+ notebooks.

I have at least one notebook and folder for each individual story, all appropriately labelled; two notebooks for short stories; one notebook for character and setting ideas; some for picture book ideas; two notebooks for my poetry; notebooks for my university work; one cupcake notebook for my favourite recipes; a notebook that is always in my handbag; one for this very blog and one for personal notes and for event plans/birthday or Christmas presents, that kind of thing. (And of course I have lots of spare notebooks for if I run out or have a new idea, plus lots of scrap pieces of paper.)
Perhaps you don't have to go to the extreme that I do, but notebooks are a very good idea.

Author Zoë Marriott, of The Swan Kingdom, Daughter of The Flames, Shadows On The Moon, posted a video on youtube about notebooks being a writers best friend. And I couldn't agree with her more.

A notebook is a great tool for a writer. For instance the one for my series is set up somewhat like this:

  1. First few pages have titles and vague plot information.
  2. Then lots filled with character information; appearance; traits and history etc.
  3. After that there's tons of information on the world and setting. Diagrams, pictures that sort of thing.
  4. Then I have some pages for random facts and ideas.
  5. The back pages are filled with pictures and lyrics I find inspirational.

That's how I tend to set out my notebooks. But find a way that works for you, a system that only you understand. Also have a lot of sellotape/glue/staples at hand, you will defiantly need them when sticking all your collected bits in.

I actually started this blog because I wanted to share something, then got distracted by notebooks (nothing new there), so now I'm going to.

I recently had a new idea for a story, which I really am not going to work on for a long while (if I keep telling myself that it just might happen), and on the first page I have written this:

The sirens sound,
Everyone runs.
There's explosions within moments,
Followed by poisonous gases.
That's when the screaming starts.

I reach for you,
The first thing my heart cries for.
As soon as your hands in mine,
I feel ready for the fight.
You've made all of this worth it.

I never thought I'd need you,
Not so completely like the air I breathe.
And I know we work,
Like tick and tock.
Because you need me just the same.

A women's howls divert my eyes from yours,
She walks towards stacks of scattered debris.
I wondered what her home once looked like,
How many she's lot in this endless war.
Please God, don't let me lose you.

You drag me away from the newly broken,
Towards anywhere that will keep us safe.
For the briefest moment I am glad,
That he didn't live to see what we've become.
The world we were trying so hard to save.

We get caught in a thrashing crowd,
And now we've no other way to turn.
I see it before anyone else does,
I tug on your arm and point up.
We both know we can't run anymore.

You turn to me and hold my face,
Your fingers caress my skin passionately.
I don't want this to be the end,
We've fought so hard and had so little time you and me.
Why has my world never been fair?

"God I love you," you breath,
Your voice is like a warm blanket.
I stroke the back of your neck gently,
The way that makes you smile.
You kiss me while we have time.

"Now it can take me,
I don't care where,
Anywhere if it's with you."

This is something I wrote, after discovering these two new characters to add to the world I created for this story.

So now I've shared something that I feel is the key to me sustaining my sanity, and a little of my work, I'm off to see which notebook I feel like working on today.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Teddies Love Books

I wake up to this every morning and it makes me smile. Just thought I'd share it.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Romantic Fools 2

So yesterday I wrote a rather long blog about my love of romance in films. I went over a fair few favourites, perhaps rambling on, but it didn't even feel like a dip in the ocean in comparison to what I could have mentioned.

That's why today I've tired to narrow it down to just a few, and believe me it has proven rather difficult.

I'm going to start with my most recent love affair: Starcrossed.
To call it epic just isn't enough. It has a great pace, which pulls you along with every word, hooking you into this fascinating world. All the characters are extremely vivid, so feel very much alive.
And not only do you believe that the love between Helen and Lucas is true because it's controlled by fate, but because during the course of the book you witness them falling in love. And it is the type of relationship you can completely relate to, 'we hold hands and act like a couple - are we or aren't we?' - I know that kind of relationship.
Starcrossed is an absolute MUST-READ for every fan of YA Fantasy romance. You will not be disappointed. And it's written by the fabulous Josephine Angelini, who is one of the nicest writers around.

Noughts and Crosses is the first book in a saga written by the awesome Malorie Blackman, who I had the pleasure of meeting once. Nought and Crosses was probably the first book I feel in love with after Harry Potter.
The writing is just effortless, which makes the same for reading. It is a story of star-crossed lovers, set it an alternate universe, where the divide between races is rife. It made for such interesting reading when , and really made me stop and think.
It also has two main characters, Sephy and Callum, who are so intriguing and wonderful that you can't help but love them to.
Although this book comes with a warning, have tissues at hand. And do read the whole saga, it is extremly gripping.

Two writers I adore when it comes to matters of the heart are Josie Lloyd and Emlyn Rees. They have written many books together, which I've shared with many friends.
The first book I read written by them is The Boy Next Door. Short but powerfully sweet is the way I'd describe it.
There's also the trilogy about/relates to Amy & Jack (Come Together, Come Again, The Seven Year Itch) which is really funny, and full of real life. I hope that last statement makes sense. The books do not avoid the situations people often find themselves going through, it faces them head on with humour and sensitivity.
My favourite book of theirs would probably have to be Love Lives. It is so gripping, and I absolutely love the premise and setting. It has a little more drama than the others, but still dealt with in the same loving humorous way.

One of my favourite writers has to be Cassandra Clare. She writes amazing books for YA, set in the world of Shadowhunters. And her two series, The Mortal Instruments and The Internal Devices, is filled with romance.
I recently reread City of Bones, and remembered why I love Jace and Clary's relationship. There was no moping around from Clary for Jace, no really obvious signals, it was just a bond they had that lead to them falling in love. (With the wrong person? The question still hangs in the air.) Everyone loves a love triangle, and the one between Tessa, Will and Jem is brilliant. (And from Cassandra Clare’s twitter we can assume she is going to handled this with brilliance and originality - as she does.) I find it really hard to favour either of the boys, and Tessa is such a fantastic character. Cannot wait for the release of Clockwork Prince!

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. I love Harry potter, my whole family loves Harry Potter. We went to see every film together; we are saving up to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando.

Some of us even went to Alnwick Castle a couple years ago, which is used as Hogwarts for the first two films. And by the way, it is one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited, my Mum wants us to ALL go again.

Now I do love the films, (actually not all of them. Half Blood Prince - that's all I'm going to say) but for me they do not do Hermione and Ron's relationship justice enough. I love the storyline where Hermione helps the house elves with her campaign, it is fantastic. So therefore I adored the scene where Ron and Hermione first kissed, I reread the book just so I can read that. It really showed how much Ron especially had grown, and you knew they were meant to be.

Nicholas Sparks books are a great easy read. I have read quite a few of his books, and enjoy reading them on a rainy day or relaxing afternoon. One my favourites would have to be The Last Song, although this could be because I can really relate to the subject matter. Never the less it was another great read.

Also I want to briefly mention The Time Travellers Wife. I did watch the film first, but then I knew I had to read the book. I don't believe it's for the faint hearted. I know one of my friends found some of it quite harrowing to read, but she has a more softer nature.
It's such a clever and powerful book. It evokes so much in you that I find it hard to describe. If you want to read brilliance, and a beautiful, true love story then do read this. (Or get the audio book as I did - I was crying in the middle of the train station, and I already read the hard copy of the book.)

Of course I can't finish without mentioning the classics of Jane Austen and Emily Bronte, but I think it is obviously that they wrote some of the greatest romance stories ever told.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Romantic Fools

I am a huge fan of romance, be it depicted in a book, TV show, film or ballad. I love to witness two people fall in love, adore it when they make me laugh and like it even more when they make me cry.

On Friday I went to watch One Day, and I am yet to read the book, but I plan to do very soon. I know there's been some criticism over the film, and concerning Anne Hathaway’s accent I'd have to agree (which hurts me to say because I love her) however overall

the film was beautiful, the supporting cast was fantastic, and I left the cinema with the urge to still cry. So after falling in love with Jim Sturgess, and the film, I thought I'd share some of my favourite (and not so favourite) films whose main ingredient is love.

My absolute epitome of a romance probably would have to be 'Becoming Jane'. (And it's not just because it stars the most wonderful James McAvoy).

It has such a tragic, yet beautiful love story. Not mention a brilliant supporting cast. There are so many lines from it that I could quote that make me feel a hundred things at once. It is one of those stories that I had to share with my friends, and make them suffer by spending twenty minutes crying with me.

One of my favourite screenwriters, for writing romance fuelled with laughter, is Richard Curtis. Not only is he the man behind Vicar of Dibley (seriously I could quote whole scenes) my joint favourite TV show, tied with Doctor Who, but he is also the force for some of the most popular romantic comedies.
Nothing Hill has to be a classic, and everyone loves a young, typically English Hugh Grant. It brings together two polar opposites, and shows how easy common ground can be found to form a strong friendship and love. It also has a stellar supporting cast; I am a big fan of the ensemble who makes a film.
And then of course there's Love Actually (do I even need to mention the cast in that?). I love films that interlink the lives of many characters, it makes you feel as though, yes this is the real world. (I also am a fan of Valentines Day, He's Just Not That Into You and am looking forward to the upcoming New Years Eve)
Richard Curtis is a man who makes heart-warming, belly laughing funny, tender films and TV shows that you want to watch again and again.

I really enjoy watching films containing the wickedly talented Sandra Bullock. I will admit that Blind Side has to be some of her best work, but I have to love Miss Congeniality, The Proposal, While You Were Sleeping, Two Weeks Notice (which happened to be my Dad's favourite chick flick). She has this vulnerability about her, and has brilliant comic timing that no one can dispute. She makes those films that you love to watch because she makes you laugh, and is so endearing that it lights up your screen.

I also have to mention the many period romances I love. The Young Victoria stars the superbly talented Emily Blunt, and is about my favourite royal couple (although Wills and Kate may be challenging that). It is a stunning film that I love to watch over and over again.
The Duchess is one of those films that took me some time to watch, I couldn't sleep one night and decided that it was a good time to play it. It had me wide-awake, sobbing into my pillow. Plus it has the delectable Dominic Cooper as one of it's stars. What a man.
I love adaptations of Austen and Bronte novels; I try to watch as many versions as I can. I love the Mansfield Park with Billie Piper, perhaps just for that adorable scene at the end. I do have to favour the Pride and Prejudice starring Keria Knightly. For one main reason, the man who the voice who makes me swoon, Matthew Macfadyen. I love it when the M&S adverts come on my television.
I also really like the Emma versions with Kate Beckinsale, and Romola Garai. Jane Eyre with Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens, also really really excited about the latest version with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender.
And I have to mention the Tess of the D'Urbervilles with Gemma Arterton. I know it’s not a film, but it's bloody fantastic. (I watched this for free on youtube before buying the DVD, so go find it.)

I can't finish without mentioning the absolutely divine, break my heart but make me want to do it again, Shakespeare In Love.
During my first viewing of this, it was interrupted by my sister and brother walking in drunk. To say I was not amused would be an understatement.
This came out during the start of my love for William Shakespeare. It is beyond any other words I have.
And I am going to do it one more time, the cast!!! The film is silled with some of the greatest actors the world has to offer. And Geoffrey Rush is one of the finest, just look as his catalouge.
This was my Becoming Jane, before I knew James McAvoy and watched him as Tom LeFroy. This is one of my romantic classics.

Now I would discuss romance in animation films, i.e. Disney etc, but you will be here all night (and plus I have planned blog about my love for animation films).
Also while writing this I did think about the many wonderful books I have read containing romance, and let's face it-that's pretty much all books I read) so tomorrow I will have a blog devoted to romance in books.

Aww love, look at what you do to me.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

First Time Novelists Warning

I know I am not yet published, so perhaps you may think that I do not yet posses efficient knowledge to be writing such a blog.
However, I have just completed my (current) extremely further revision of my novel, my first actually completed novel. Along the way I have suffered pain and heartache, lots of which I did not expect to. But I tell you this: I should have, and so should you.
Being an author isn't just about writing something with creativity and an original voice. There is so much more to take into consideration.
I am going to go through some of the lessons I have learnt in this ongoing journey. Although I must say that I am not perfect at this, I still have a way to go until I (please please!) See my book on a shelf with a shiny cover.

But I hope this will be of some help to anyway one reads this. And save some time taken away from finishing your masterpiece.

1. Never query too early, this was my mistake. The novel wasn't in a good enough shape, there was so much work that I needed to take the time to complete.
Make sure you are 200% confident that it is at its best before sending it out to the big wide world of querying. I know you may read this a lot, but its true.

2. You have to do your research, and not just for your fictional world you've created. You need knowledge, even if it’s just some, of the genre and market you would like to become a part of. This will help you become more aware.
However I will say don't shape your novel to fit a certain genre or marketplace, this will remove the joy from the process and won't make your book stand out. Know whom you’d like to read your book, and what you want to write about, but be unique.

3. Concerning agents, don't just query any old person who takes your fancy. Make sure you're your sending your work to the right person.
For example do the agency or agent handle your type of work? I myself have had to research what places take on YA Fantasy; some may take on one but not the other.
A good place to start your search is at Agent Query.
Also, are their doors open for submission currently? Do they have specific guidelines for submitting?
I suggest making a table (or spreadsheet if you're good at that) to keep all your information in one place.

4. From my, premature, round of queries I learnt the hard, but polite, way that my novel was too long. Way long. Some agents will just see your word count is too long and instantly dismiss your work.
I didn't really understand word count and how much of an integral part of publishing it is, especially when concerning new authors. (I know it seems naïve, but I'm new at this. I had no idea what to expect)
I say to learn more read this and this. Trust me, it's one of the most important things I learnt.

5. Get some sort of writing platform up and going, even if it’s just a twitter account with 11 followers. Be out there, it will help. Because if you do get published, these are all great advertising tools you will need, and it will help readers feel more connected to you and your work.
I read an interview recently with a great agent; she said that after reading your partial (if requested) she will Google your name just to see if you have an online presence. She said it doesn't matter if it was small, as long as you are there.

All this advice and information you can learn from the net. Look at author’s websites, their blogs or twitters. Read interviews they make, guest posts they publish. Do the same for agents and publishers.
A great website, run by brilliant friendly Stacey on twitter, I personally found a fantastic source for help is the YAFantasy Guide. Not only a good place to go if you're fan of that genre, but also amazing for other writers. It has great articles such as; painting pictures as a writer; how to get bloggers to review your books and what to avoid while writing dialogue.
Here are also some other great links to websites/articles which I found great help:

Great advice from author Josephine Angelini - of Starcrossed Series.

Author Zoe Marriott on getting published & writing diversely.

And finally, the most common piece of advice I see writers and such give, whether it be in an interview or on their blog etc, is:

Don't give up, follow your dreams.

And I agree with them whole-heartedly. As long as you believe in your story, if it has all those elements that make other books you read great, then go for it.
Perfect your book, use some of the advice above and go find more for yourself. Then just go for it.
What's the worse that could happen? People will say no? (Believe me there will be some who do) But then at least you've tried haven't you? You've put all the energy and enthusiasm you can behind it, then at the very least you can say you gave it a go.

Thanks for staying with me till the end of this, and I wish you the best of luck in your endeavours.
However the thing to remember is, keep your patience. Sometimes I struggle to find mine. So I close my eyes and dream of how I’ll feel if I succeed. It tends to help.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Flash Fiction In: 6 Words

After a long day of revising and editing my novel, I was glad to take some light relief in a version of storytelling I have recently discovered.

6 word stories.

A previous Figment post I read reminded me of something I learnt in a class a couple years ago, the power of few words.
A famous example of this (as said in the above figment post) is one by Hemingway, who described it as his best work. Or so I've read.

For Sale: baby shows, never worn.

I think it’s so poignant, and I've never felt so affected reading something so little.
So feeling inspired, I set out writing my own selection of bite-sized stories. An example of one is:

My love, my life, my loss.

I won't go as far, like Hemingway, to say that it's my best work, however I am rather proud of my small stories. I found them thoroughly enjoyable to write, and I hope, if you to do take time to follow the link above, you enjoy reading them just as much.

Friday, 19 August 2011

To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

Despite the title this isn't just going to be about twitterings. Sorry if I disappoint.

It seems to me that lately social media isn't just being used as a great tool, but for a great deal of other things as well.
Twitter and BB Messenger are being blamed for aiding the recent UK riots.
Personally I don't think that Internet sites and instant messengers can be blamed, but the people who use them can.
On the flip side to this, the same sites were also used to gather crowds of people to help clean up the mess left behind.
This to me seems to be a great primary example of the two sides to this argument.

I personally love sites like Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and this here blog site. I find it a great way to keep in touch with friends, increase the knowledge of my interests, indulge my liking for gossip, and try to build myself a platform for my (fingers crossed) writing career.
And everyone knows it’s a great way to advertise yourself or your product. It's free and instantaneous.

I also think that it helps those with less confidence, those who find physical interaction slightly harder. It allows them to speak freely and express themselves without fear of being laughed at. (To their face at least.)

Now I know there are plenty of 'againsts' in this argument. Not everyone on the World Wide Web is as they seem, that's why you should treat such virtual 'friendships' with trepidation, and never give out any personal details.
And I am also aware that there are many horrible things like cyber bullying, and some people can get too caught up in their online life to focus on the one they should actually be living.

However those are just the few, these are issues exactly like ones we have in 'real' everyday life. We will try our best to stamp them out, although I don't think we will ever be rid of them. (As much as that statement pains me, there will always be bullies).

And why should we constantly taint something that is bursting at the seems with knowledge and enjoyment. I think the social media age can be a scary one, but there is so much about it to embrace.

I am a twitter, facebooker, goodreader and blogger. I'm out and proud.

Now let us take caution to the wind, and let us fly.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

2011...What a year you've been...And it hasn't finished.

Recently I heard someone say; oh they said 2011 was going to be a bad year didn't they?
I want to know who this particular someone was, and if they looked into my future.
January started pretty much the way it always does, except for the fact I finished my first novel, and learnt how to write my query letter and synopsis.
Then I suddenly got very ill. It was the kind of illness that had me admitted into hospital several times before I was diagnosed with what was actually wrong with me. This was also after I had been passed around to a dozen various doctors, and been to see my GP up-tine times.
It was also the kind of illness that still affects me now. My immune system was attacked quite severely, and is still struggling to patch itself back together after being so ill. It also affected the rest of my life.
I had to suspend my university course; otherwise I was told I'd fail. I missed out on lots of social events. Hardly been to work, a part-time job that I adore.

We struggled with money, actually still are. No one tells you how hard money can be to manage. Yes they are plenty of good, better things that money can't buy: but it helps, enables you to enjoy those other wonderful things in life.

And since being ill, it seemed to me that everything that could go wrong, has.
Although I can't say the year has been all bad. I've enjoyed great times with family and friends. And they all spoilt me, treated me far better than I sometimes wonder if I deserve, on my 21st.
I was given some great advice for my novel, which lead me to writing a saga instead of a trilogy, the first two books of which I have already written. That advice, from a very considerate agent, has also resulted in me writing a better first novel.
The other thing about this year I'm so grateful to have succeeded in, is increasing my reading list. I've read so many great books, mainly in the genre I wish to base my writing career, and the list is ever growing.
So far I've read:

  • City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare
  • Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini
  • Howls Moving Castle By Diana Wynne Jones
  • The Swan Kingdom by Zoë Marriott
  • Daughter of the Flames by Zoë Marriott (Currently Reading)
  • Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce
  • A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks
  • Beastly by Alex Flinn
  • A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn
  • Cloaked by Alex Flinn
  • Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Lament by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Passion by Lauren Kate
  • Eternal Kiss (YA Vampire Short Story Collection - MUST READ!)
  • Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
  • Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith
  • Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling (Re read for the 100th time)

The next top ones to read are:

  • Forever by Maggie Stiefvater
  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Across the Universe by Beth Revis
  • Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
  • Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick
  • Shadows on The Moon by Zoë Marriott
  • The Iron Fey Series by Julie Kagawa
  • Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
  • Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stone
  • Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stone
  • The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks
  • Dear John by Nicholas Sparks
  • The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong
  • Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
  • Soul Screamers Series by Rachel Vincent
  • Die For Me by Amy Plum

(Needless to say the list is endless, being ill and in hospital so often gives you a lot of time to read/research. Plus my friend has a great library I steal from.)

So yes, I'd say 2011 has been, overall, rather crappy. And I wish I knew when it would improve. But, I have furthered my work, written ideas and excerpts for several other planned novels. I have enjoyed some good times.
And I know I don't have it as bad as some, I know it can only go up from here, or at least I hope. And if by the end of the year, my one constant wish comes true, i'll be overjoyed.

By the way the wish, for my Mum to be happy.