Sea Life

seaSo far, this year is going well. I suppose I can’t get excited yet as it’s only nine days into my new 2016 writing practice, but…

I’ve entered a writing competition, and decided on the next 5 I’m going to also submit work to, with deadlines for getting them done. I’ve re-edited, and sent out to readers my next novel. With inspiration from friends I’ve been experimenting with poetic forms (only written Free Form before). I’ve tried the Haiku, Villanelle, and Triolet so far. This is interesting for me. I chose to do poetry in an independent study module at Uni a few years back, but had no assistance from the tutor in specific form (yes OK I know it was independent study). I guess I’ve just always thought there was little point going mad with it because prose is what I love. Now it dawns on me (bit slow sometimes) that being experienced in poetry can really help prose sound beautiful – I’ve gone mad for it.

I’m keeping track of all my efforts in a shiny new book (thank-you for lovely Christmas stationary presents). Next week I’m going on a snowy winter holiday which I’m soooo excited about, and which I hope will fill me up with new stories and poems.

So why a picture of the sea near my home? Because I’ve been walking there regularly through these winter months, letting the power of the wind and water snatch my breath (and negative thoughts) away. It’s refreshing, inspiring, and I often feel like I’m those waves, crashing about in my life, trying this, trying that, failing, getting up, carrying on, getting disheartened, finding new inspiration, keeping at it, getting dragged back over stones, surging forward…

How are your New Year plans going?

 

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A Gentle Practice

meditationI started yoga practice in 1999, and have finally got to grips with a reasonable meditation practice too. Yoga particularly, can be likened to writing. The best way to gain flexibility and grow long, strong muscles is to exercise slowly and methodically. In each posture I extend my body to it’s maximum for that moment, then I rest in the position, breathe deeply, and allow the muscles to realise that’s there’s no need to panic, that they can relax too. Once this is achieved, I can move further into the posture until I reach the next point of resistance. Again, I pause, breathe and allow the body to adapt. I continue this until I am aware that no further stretch can happen that day. In this way I am able to focus completely on the present because of the concentration on breath and lightness required, so it is a meditative process.

Writing benefits from the same gentle, opening approach. I need to understand how creative I feel on any particular day. I start small, with reading my journal about my writing life, adding any new insights, perhaps watch an inspiring video on YouTube from a favourite author, or read some words of wisdom that speak to me. I might write a blog next, or a poem, or just play with sentences, explore some new words and add them to my notebook. Then I’ll re-read the last chapter I wrote to get into the zone, then write well into the next part before stopping. At this point I know whether it’s going to be a long day of flowing writing, or if I have to breathe and go for a walk. Sometimes the best thing for that day is just to walk and ponder characters. I might write a list of questions that my characters could answer so I can help understand their flaws, or objectives in the story. I might decide that place needs more definition and draw a map of what is in my head, or visit the area it’s set in either physically, or on the internet – write some more notes. Often, this gentle approach means I can go back to the writing and find a flow that previously wasn’t happening, because I’ve given my writing and imagination muscles time to relax and extend.

Trying to force the body or mind to function usually results in contraction and resistance. This gentle way of working tends more to opening, exploration, and productivity.

As the saying goes: ‘Strength in Softness’.

 

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Snowball

Snowball-e1393779647293There’s a means of paying off your debts known as the snowball effect. You list your debts in size and then throw everything into paying off the smallest one, then the next smallest one, and so on. Apparently, there is a stronger sense of achievement, and feeling of getting through the pile.

Well I thought, why not apply this to my writing projects! List them all – in their every form:

  • vague novel ideas/bits of research
  • completed first draft of novel – needs a lot of work
  • half written novel – quite strong
  • third edit of a completed novel – nearly ready to go (I write slowly and carefully so don’t do 20 edits)
  • several completed short stories that just need a competition
  • write some more short stories to flex those writing muscles
  • complete two poems to enter into different competitions (TICK)

I began by gathering together all those notebooks and scraps of paper and organizing them into piles. Also reorganized and tidied my desk space. I then created an inspiration box – pictures, photos, keepsakes, letters, quotes, loved poems, film scripts etc. etc. Anything that gets me excited about writing, as a means of support.

I’m now going to send off my poems before Christmas – enjoy the break, and really get going with my snowball in the New Year – see how big I can make it!

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Tutorial: How to Make a Bread Bag

Writing often goes by the wayside near Christmas because I’m so busy making presents. Just used this pattern for the third time. Fantastic!

so resourceful

Even if you don’t bake your own bread, these bread bags are great for storing shop-bought bread in. Not only does it look waaaaay better than those horrible plastic wrappers, but it’s easier to keep closed, thus helping to prevent your bread from going stale or mouldy. This tutorial will make a bread bag suitable for bread made in most standard bread loaf tins. You can tweek the dimensions if you have abnormally large tins or a breadmaker.

Equipment:

  • 20″ by 17″ piece of heavy-duty fabric such as canvas or ticking
  • coordinating thread
  • a strip of fabric measuring 15″ long by 2″ wide for the tie. Alternatively you can use some thick ribbon or cotton tape
  • an iron and ironing board

Things to consider: Do not attempt to use a drawstring instead of the tie, it will not close tightly enough and you will have a small air hole at…

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Writers need support

It’s been many years since I was part of a writing group – set up by myself and a few friends in a quiet corner of the local pub. Since then I’ve attended some wonderful writing workshops (www.writinginthehouseofdreams.com) and completed a creative writing and English Literature degree. During all that time I felt supported – by other struggling writers, by successful authors, by tutors. I was always being challenged, pushed to get assignments in, made aware of competitions, asked continuously to share my work, given careful criticism, and a friendly e-mail or hug when it got too hard.

Since this time I’ve carried on writing with the support of my mum and a close friend. But gradually, I’ve slipped back into the mire of negativity, worrying about whether it’s worth this tremendous effort all the time – and that’s just the writing, people will know how rubbish I am at submitting work to publishers! Moving home twice has meant the loss of my carefully nurtured writing practice too.

Anyway, I have finally found a new writing group via an on-line search called ‘meet up’. So this week I met a group of strangers in a coffee shop, except they aren’t strange at all, they’re just like me – people that just inexplicably need to write. With the return of my blog, my new home in good order, and some support behind me, I feel the sparks of excitement about writing again.

It’s so important for writers to have support. Find yourself a group to meet regularly with, create your own, or join an on-line forum. Do whatever you can to secure a place where you can share your writing life, otherwise you’ll feel like the rocks are blocking out the sun, and it’s not a fun place to be.

rock face

 

 

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Am I Back?

Months ago, during a period of great upheaval, whilst I was in the process of moving house – twice, wordpress refused me access to my blogs because I hadn’t paid the required fee? Now I find I can access all my work again. why? It’s been great reading through old posts, I’ve missed this space, so I guess this is a test post to see if I really am allowed back! Here is a photo of the sea just a few minutes walk from my new home in Hythe, Kent. Big changes after 13 years in Cornwall. But I’m close to family and very happy to be here.Facebook-20151114-111939

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Getting wordy with the greats.

A_picture_is_worth_a_thousand_words

I’ve recently been helping my son revise literary terms for his English Language GCSE. We’ve worked mainly with the basics:

Metaphor      –      A word or phrase applied to object or action that is not meant literally but is used to evoke vivid comparison: He was a mighty redwood tree.

Simile      –      A comparison between two similar things usually including ‘like’ or ‘as’: She was as gentle as a doe.

Assonance      –      The similarity of two or more vowel sounds to give writing a musical quality: The distant hills were a simple pleasure.

Alliteration      –      A poetic affect created by using several words with the same or similar first letter or stressed syllable: Kirsty’s cat was incredibly quick.

Hyperbole      –      Deliberate or obvious exaggeration to create humour or intensity: The sad young woman ate every cake in the shop.

Sibilance      –      Consonants produced with a soft hissing sound: Share the soft grassy spot with me.

Onomatopoeia      –      Use of words that imitate sounds: The shot exploded into the night air with a bang.

Personification      –      The attribution of human characteristics to things not human: The tree screamed, and flailed it’s arms at the wind’s foul mood.

As a writer it’s quite grounding to get back to basics sometimes, so I dug out my old Ted Hughes book ‘Poetry in the Making’ to remind myself of his great advice:

“Words that live are those which we hear, like ‘click’ or ‘chuckle’, or which we see, like ‘freckled’ or ‘veined’, or which we taste, like ‘vinegar’ or ‘sugar’, or touch, like ‘prickle’ or ‘oily’, or smell, like ‘tar’ or ‘onion’. Words which belong directly to one of the five senses. Or words which act and seem to use their muscles, like ‘flick’, or ‘balance’.

And this got me on to some more advice and wisdom from some of the best writers:

“Fiction is a lie, and good fiction is the truth inside the lie.” (Stephen King)

“Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper.” (Ray Bradbury)

“Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise the muscles seize up.” (Jane Yolen)

“The writer is an explorer, every step is an advance into a new land.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

“You can make anything by writing.” (C.S.Lewis)

Browne_Henriette_-_A_Girl_Writing_The_Pet_Goldfinch_-_Google_Art_Project-copia

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A Day in the Life of Procrastination.

5.30am     I’m woken by a noise. Is it the cats? No, they’re silent just now. Is it a burglar? No, I live in such an out-of-the-way spot. Has the boiler blown up? No, thankfully. Was it in my dream? Ahh yes, it all comes back. I was woken (too late to go back to sleep) by a noise in my dream!

5.40am    Try to upload family photos onto facebook. Poor connection will not allow this.

6.00am    Make tea. Attempt to feed cats but realize the next box of food is in the utility room which is separate to the house and it’s raining outside.

6.10am    Do a few yoga stretches, enough to stop the guilt, not enough to be called daily practice.

6.25am    Eat bananas and almond butter on brown sourdough toast.

6.45am    Wash, dress. Feed cats.

7.00am    Write a shopping list and a things to accomplish list. Look at the things outstanding on yesterdays things to accomplish list. Sigh.

7.10am    Make coffee. Sit with kids. Write a letter to the school about dentist.

7.40am    Mad panic to get forgotten rubbish and recycling outside in time. Tidy up.

8.00am    School run.

8.30am    Finish crazy patchwork block for quilt that I started yesterday (not on list of things to accomplish).

9.00am    Check e-mails (answer a few), check facebook (upload photos), read a few posts from people I follow (not on list).

9.20am    Iron small pile of clothes (not on list).

9.35am    Look at things to accomplish list (yesterdays and todays). Make coffee.

9.55am    Sort out material scraps (not on list).

10.15am    Read through notes for latest book. Write 6 words (to finish yesterday’s sentence – yes I do sometimes stop mid-sentence?! I don’t get it either!).

10.30am    Look at overall skeleton plan for novel. Think what a long way still to go. Sigh. Get cross with myself and think how much I’ve already done. Look out of the window.

11.00am    Put sewing things away, clear table, get serious.

11.15am    Check my accounts, and do some banking transactions (not on list).

11.30am   Wish I had an evil Victorian taskmaster to stand over me and force me to write. Ponder why it’s so hard to get on with what I really love doing. Imagine myself back employed in a job I hate, with no time to write. Sigh.

11.45am    Write 3 paragraphs. Make tea.

12.30pm    Read paragraphs. Delete first two.

12.45pm    Write another four paragraphs. Enjoy slight flicker of satisfaction.

1.30pm    Give in to stomach rumbling. Eat mackerel salad.

2.00pm    Write solidly for two hours, wondering what the big deal was.

4.00pm    School run. Make tea. Catch up with kids.

5.00pm    Write intermittently whilst preparing dinner. Wish I hadn’t wasted the morning.

6.30pm    Eat Baked chicken and vegetables with brown basmati. Clear up.

7.15pm    Finish chapter (including the last sentence).

8.30pm    Work on tapestry cushion cover whilst watching history programme on Medieval Birth, Marriage and Death.

10.00pm    Cross two things off list. Admire quilting blocks. Vow to do better. Read. Sleep.

crazy block

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How I Write A Book

Interesting post on Chantelle Atkins’ method of writing a book. It closely resembles my own organic process, and gave me a reminder to stop pushing and let the words come when they’re ready.

The Glorious Outsiders

A few weeks ago I was chatting to someone and the subject of my writing came up. She asked what I had written and when I told her, she was politely impressed and asked me this question; ‘so, how do you even write a book anyway?’

It’s a great question, and one I have never really thought about before. To be honest I think I’ve always been a little bit scared to think about this question. In my head, my books just seem to happen, and yes, it feels a little bit like a lovely dose of magic. I like having magic in my life and I don’t want to ruin it. But seriously though, there must be a process, even if I am not always that aware of it. Recently I’ve also become more aware of how other people write books. This is fascinating! Spreadsheets and things! Now I…

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Getting Back on Track

railway trackI was really organized, I was so prepared, but moving house still impacted more heavily on my life than I thought possible. It wasn’t just deciding what to give to charity, the gathering and packing of boxes and endless cleaning. It wasn’t just how physically draining moving house is, or being without a land-line or internet connection for 3 weeks; or all the letters to write, and calls to be made on a mobile in a poor signal area. Trying to organize transport for my kids to school, re-stocking the cupboards, cooking in a different kitchen, unpacking boxes, re-adjusting my distressed cats. After all these things were sorted, I needed a rest – fair enough I thought, but I still felt a little guilty about having a break, because I’d already had enough time away from my desk. So while I was resting I re-read my latest novel from beginning to where I’d left off. But there was no spark.

I was being creative – I was sewing and crocheting. I felt calm and balanced – back to daily yoga, meditation and walking. I was reading. Everything was in place, but still no spark. How could moving house completely destroy my desire to write?

For me personally, I think it’s got a lot to do with the fact that this move was only an interim one, and I have to move again in 3 months time – long distance. But it’s not just that. It’s also the huge disruption to a healthy daily writing routine that I’d worked so hard to create.  I believe the move came at a difficult time for me in the creation of my story. Like being disturbed by a loud noise in the night and waking from the depths of a dream that you can’t return to, so you lie tossing and turning, unable to sleep.

I understand myself well enough now to know that I will face the blank page, give myself a talking to and eventually get on with it, because I’ll get sick of the grumpy writer within. But I’m also trying to be philosophical. To look down on my life from a great height like the eagle and see the long length of twisting, turning track, the damaged parts, the places lost in fog, but also the lush countryside, the sun gleaming off the rails, the high speed straight bits where I’ve caught up on those irritating delays.

However, if anyone has experience of being diverted from course, any advice for a quick recovery…I’d love to hear from you.

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