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This week’s post is a little short because I am away again – more about that on Thursday, I imagine!

After last week’s frustration about what exactly to do with the woods novel, I did what my heart told me. I stopped trying to revise what I had to make it work, and I started writing new chapters.

I think it was inevitable, really. The changes I had planned way back in the summer just didn’t fit what I was trying to do – which was revise each chapter to remove substantial elements and replace them. The further I got into the story the more complex the changes were becoming, and the more untidy the work became.

So I have started working on a new, unblemished, section to replace the messy and half-revised middle.  It feels good, even knowing my timetable is yet again a pointless distraction – I am not going to rush to finish before Christmas.

Other than that, I’ve also been doing a lot of note taking in the last few days, filling up my notebooks for the new year.  It’s great to feel I have plenty of projects, whether they are poems, short stories or plans for novels in the future.  I know some things will never be used but the more options I give myself, the more chance of doing something that is really effective.

I thoroughly recommend building a portfolio of ideas for the future.

In other news – back to the 100 best novels list.  We’re up to number 12, which is Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë .  It’s another one I can tick off my list; I studied it, in fact, back in my schooldays.  I wasn’t over-keen at the time but it did encourage me to read both Wuthering Heights (by Emily Brontë) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (by Anne Brontë) so it had a positive impact on my reading choices.

That’s it for this week, as I have to get back to my socialising!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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This week’s inspiration post is an exercise I have just attempted, to make sure it’ll work.  It’s a bit of fun mixed in with a tried and tested writing exercise – writing to music.  I enjoyed this one so I hope you have a go and let me know what you think!

Firstly, find the theme tune from a TV programme you watched as a child – there are loads of these on YouTube.  In fact, I got lost in the nostalgia when I was looking for something!  Listen to as many or as few as you like, but choose a particular one and listen to it a couple of times, thinking about when you might have watched the programme.  Let your mind wander back in time!  If the introductory video is also attached watch it if you like.  Then write down everything you can think of from your childhood related to that programme – the chair you sat in/the wallpaper in the room/what you might have had for tea/who was with you.  If you struggle to be accurate, don’t worry – you can focus on  a particular day or a time of day, or simply a few clear details from your house as you grew up, or school.  Whatever you find most compelling.

Once you’ve done all of this write a short piece of autobiography or fiction based on what you have written down.  I cheated a little, and used the outcome of this exercise for flash fiction as a possible example for my writing group because my partner and I had, independently, both written about space travel so I needed a new approach!

Here’s the theme tune I started with – I’m dating myself a bit with this and can only say I watched it when it was repeated some time after the original release 🙂

My first thought was tea time with cutlery on the table, the retro place-mats we had (and I think my parents still have – they were built to last!); I then thought about a particular food I loved, about the dogs we had growing up that sat semi-patiently waiting for us to drop something.  I thought about the carpet, the fireplace, the door to the kitchen.  I don’t think all the memories fit together chronologically, but it doesn’t really matter because I write fiction. In fact, what I ended up with was nothing to do with any of these memories, but came from them.

When I’ve shared the piece in my writing group, and had a chance to tidy it up a little, I’ll post it here.  And unlike the poem I’ve meant to finish and post, I’ll actually do it!

I’ve given up on that poem for now, by the way.  I’m not sure I can focus on an Anglo-Saxon feasting hall  – although maybe it’ll be easier than I think, if this exercise took me straight to dinner time..!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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Today’s post is shorter than normal as I hosted a dinner party tonight so I’m running late!

This week was quite bitty and unstructured, but I got a fair bit done.

I contacted the agency I haven’t yet heard from; they confirmed that all submissions get a response but it might take up to 10 weeks.  I’m glad I checked, but I’m also glad I submitted to other agencies.  If I wait 10 weeks every time, it could be 2016 before I get through my list!  I’ll keep an eye out for responses, of course, but will do new submissions every few weeks in the meantime.

It was also my second writing group this week.  The work from our writing to music exercise had gone really well, and everyone had done something original and different, despite all starting with the same piece of music.  We’re on to flash fiction for next time, and heading off to an open mike event in a few days. My piece ended up being nearly 1000 words, and I think will become a short story in time.  We’ll be presenting out progress on them in December (over Christmas drinks!) so I’ve got until then to decide.

I’ve been developing some new skills this week too – I’ve gone a bit vintage and am learning how to knit and crochet!  The crochet is for an event I am supporting in October, and the knitting is something my mum decided to teach me…  They are great for writing breaks; I can completely clear my mind of the story because I have to concentrate so much on what I’m doing.  They are also a timely reminder of the importance of weaving things together!  See – writing is everywhere if you look 🙂

Meanwhile the work continues; I didn’t get as much done as I’d planned this week so have to catch up over the next couple of days but progress is reasonably steady.  I’ve concentrated on book 2 this week for a number of personal reasons, and expect that’ll be the case for the next few weeks.

Due to my lack of time and general organisation, I’ve got no ‘in other news’ for today so I’ll find extra for next time!

There you go – a week in less than 400 words; not bad for me!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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I have once again failed to post about news articles as promised. I was hoping to get that post out today but due to real life getting in the way of blogging life, I haven’t had a proper chance to cover everything I wanted to add this week so it’ll be a little delayed, sorry.

In fact real life has stopped me doing much in the way of writing at all for the last few days – although there’s a few scenes I’ve seen that I’d like to write up at some point.  So really this post, which was supposed to be an inspiration post for you, is turning into a post about not achieving anything…

But I couldn’t leave it like that, so I turned to my trusty photo album and I offer you this by way of an apology: I call it Pebbles.

Pebbles

I took this on a beach on a pretty miserable day, but somehow the horrible weather seemed to make the colours of the stones more noticeable.  I’d never really been aware of the colours of pebbles so strongly before; but they were like art and I wanted to record them before I forgot, or they were lost from sight.

When I look at this I don’t think of the water that washes over them each day, but I think of the people who walked over the coastline.  I wonder who else may have stopped and looked, just for a moment, at the stone-studded sand.  I think that’s why I love my holidays of traipsing around ancient monuments and stately homes and so on; I love to think about the people who were there before, how they saw things.

So this is the inspiration for the week.  Try it yourself: look at a photo of somewhere you have been on holiday, and imagine some of the people who were there before.  What did they think of the scene?  Did they see it as beautiful? Plentiful? Was it home?  See where the idea takes you.  Is there a short story in there, of people living in the middle ages, or the iron age, or under Roman rule?  Or a poem shared over time, voices calling each other over centuries?

If nothing else, look at the photo and enjoy the memories 🙂

Let me know how you get on!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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If that makes you want to sing soft rock, I’m really sorry – that’s what it made me think of too!

Well, I have failed to tick off the short stories yet again – and I’m a bit mad with myself about these, I shouldn’t have looked at them any more because I know it makes me question myself.

The problem with short stories for me is that they never quite tell the tale I want to tell, because they are written for a specific market.  They are not part of me in the same way the novel or the poems are, so I don’t feel as confident in my writing.  I am very aware this is something I need to overcome if I’m going to send them off, but I really don’t enjoy them because of this.

So, the sorry tale of the short stories ends with two ready to go in the post, and two I am ambivalent about.  I’ll work on these over the next few days in an attempt to improve them and get them out there, because even though I missed my target I still know I ought to send them, to get over this issue if nothing else.

I haven’t quite made it on The Story of One, as preparation for my party took longer than I thought, but I’m not too far from the 20,000 words so I should get there tonight or tomorrow.

So what happens now project month is done?

After changing my mind a lot, I have signed up for NaNoWriMo – I’m EJJudge_UK if you want to find me there – and fully intend to get the first third, at least, of novel two underway.  I still want to send the short stories and carry on with the revisions of The Story of One, so they will run on into November.  I also need to sit down with the feedback from the family novel and give that some attention – my reading group are asking to read that as a set book so I need to get any amendments made before they look at it!

November’s project plan will be short stories/new novel/revisions to old novel/The Story of One.  It seems pretty familiar in places, but if at first you don’t succeed, you try again, right?!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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My penultimate 24 hours is drawing to a close, and I’ve gone off plan again!

I’m still doing my final read-through of the short stories for sending tomorrow, but that shouldn’t take too long (I hope – I really, really don’t enjoy these and will be very glad to not do short stories for a while) and I’m still working through The Story of One, but the most valuable part of the day was not project plan-related at all, but getting the feedback on the first novel.

It’s always nerve-jangling for me to share my work with people, so getting feedback on it can be quite difficult. However, going through the pages of notes my ‘critical friend’ had prepared was a very positive experience.

As this person represents my target audience, I was very pleased to hear that the story had engaged her, and was the kind of thing she would read (even without doing favours for me!).  There were a few discrepancies or technical matters that weren’t quite right but the story as a whole works.  I now need to sit down with the notes and my manuscript and decide what changes I want to make to alleviate those issues that have been flagged, but I have more confidence in the story now, and can see it having a future.

This is really good news for me – sometimes writing can feel like a vanity project, or too frivolous, and knowing my novel can be enjoyed as a work in its own right is excellent.

Phew – not a waste of a year then!!

As tomorrow afternoon and evening are allocated to the Halloween party, I will either post really early as a result of finishing everything by lunchtime – or really late as I eke a few more hours out when everyone else has gone to bed!

I predict the latter!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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Sorry for the lateness of this post, my internet crashed yesterday.

Today I ticked off another target, having made a decision to proceed with a poetry pamphlet split into morning, noon and night – there are 6 poems in total. I’m happy with the choices now, and editing them will start in earnest in November.

I also did another couple of thousand words on ‘The Story of One’ – I really want to get to 45,000 words on that by the end of October, which is 20,000 up from last November.  It’s not as many as originally planned but it’s only another few thousand and I’m sure with a push I can get it done.

The final short story read-through is also being done tomorrow (otherwise I’ll miss my 31 October postal target!) so once I’ve done that and printed them I can tick that off. As you know, I had earlier targets for that, because otherwise I’d have given up on them, but as long as I get them out I’ve met the project plan so I’m satisfied with that.

In fact, the only thing that’s really gone awry has been Torch Tales. I accept the writing of those needs to run on into November, as the rest of tomorrow will be filled up with visitors and feedback from my critical friend on my first novel…

It’s a shame about those but at least I’ve finished the route plan research and the outline stories.  I still have hope that I’ll have drafted the complete first tale by the end of October but I’m not going to feel too bad if not.

With my last two days I am going to tick off as much as I can. Come 1 November, I’ll be working on the next plan!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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Today’s is just a brief update as I’m still working and want to get a few more pages done by the end of the day…

As I said yesterday, the revision of The Story of One is going pretty well.  Today I got to my first milestone, and by adding the required detail I am also adding 25-30% more words to the section.  I was surprised it was so much, to be honest, especially as I’m cutting out some bits too – it’ll be interesting to see if this carries on into the next sections…

I did some more research as well but I also decided – possible mistake alert – not to get too bogged down in the definitive castle set-up of the time.  The reason for this?  Well, when I was reading through I thought it could be moved in time a little if I chose.  The English medieval period actually spans a few centuries (if you consider the Anglo-Saxon period as separate, roughly from William I to death of Henry VII depending on the historian!) so there’s a lot of social and architectural change in that period.  In effect, I have about 400 years to play with!

All the key elements – illiteracy, poverty, social stagnation, poor medical knowledge, power of the church – remain the same.

Real historians – I apologise for my casual approach and promise that should this story ever get a proper read-through I’ll iron all this out!

This means I can move action in and out of the castle keep, giving my character a culture shock as well as a sense that, no matter what he tries, there are too many steps to climb to be anywhere other than the bottom of the social hierarchy.

I also succumbed to the lure of new writing and wrote a few hundred words for the first of the ‘Torch Tales’ late last night, so I feel a bit better that I’ve kicked that off…  I’d like to get this one finished before the end of the month.

I’ll leave it there and go back to work; I should be able to get another 1000 words done by the end of the evening so that’s my target for today.

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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Following on from Sunday’s discussions about how to keep appearances consistent by using references, I thought I’d go on to places.

I’ve said before how much I like to do research, and how I find the landscape of the UK inspirational.  Well, scene-setting often covers both these areas. There are three main methods I have for getting me past any blocks.

1. The cinematic technique.  When I am writing particularly important or complicated scenes, I try to imagine them as though they are part of a film.  How would they look?  What elements would the camera notice?  What movement would take place?

This helps me to focus on the visual elements – for example the change in light if the sun goes behind a cloud, or repetitive behaviours someone displays when nervous – and how they can affect the mood.

2. The ‘from life’ technique.  I often use places I know to give me a starting point for settings.  They are not necessarily accurate representations (and are not given the same names), but the basis in reality allows me to call up accurate details.  The kind of thing I may pick up will be the architecture, or the setting on a  hill, or the sense of noise/quiet.

If I were to write fantasy, I think the same technique would still work, but perhaps looking at the landscape instead – mountains, forests, rivers and so on…

3. The research technique.  Some things you write about you cannot possibly experience: my current example being life in a medieval castle.  I can look up lots of information about castles built during the right era, some of which I know well.  I can watch programmes about life in castles, or archaeology shows about the set-up of buildings in the castle courtyard.  All of these have formed part of my current research for The Story of One.

So there you go: a few ideas that have worked for me when setting a scene.  These are methods I use when things are not going as planned, but if you do something different please let me know in the comments!

In project news – my new way of working on The Story of One seems to be working so far; I am only partway through the first chapter but have noticed where the gaps in my knowledge mean the story is a bit tell, not show, and that’s what I’m trying to fix.  I have also decided to review the short stories to send, and give them one last read-through before I post them off.  I know it’s probably a silly thing to do, but it’ll make me feel more confident when they go!  As a plus point, I now have enough ink to print them at my leisure!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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… said the project plan to the writer.

Last night’s catchup went better than expected.  I finalised first drafts of four space poems – one changed quite a lot and has had two stanzas replaced with new content. I hadn’t realised until I read them all together that two had similar imagery, and I couldn’t have that!

I’m really happy with my mythological one, and the others are coming together – I like the ‘feel’ and the structure.

I also spent a bit of time on Torch Tales identifying the key elements of each story so I have a plan. I’m still hoping to write a bit more but at least I have the ideas all set out.

And of course I looked at the Chinese. I definitely need the cd!

Today, I split my time between ‘The Story of One’ and reviewing poetry to put into a pamphlet.

I’ve got two themes in mind for the poetry, and I can’t choose between them.  They are similar and of the five poems I’ve picked so far three will work with either category – so whichever choice I make I have four poems to start with!  I have not chosen any that were submissions to competitions yet, I may keep them for future submissions or for the blog, not sure yet.

I know I’m supposed to send out the short stories by tomorrow but in my extremely organised way I realised I have no printer ink (all submissions have to go snail mail for some reason that I can’t understand) so they’ll go as soon as I can print them.  They are complete though – unless I decide to edit them again before sending, which wouldn’t be unusual!

The Story of One is turning into a series of conversations – not ideal but at least words are being added; I am doing half an hour here and there on that.  I definitely want to reach the additional 20,000 words on the piece as a minimum so I’ll continue on that piece tomorrow, and give it a bit more time.

I will be annoyed with myself if I don’t complete everything on my plan but I’m really happy how much I’ve achieved so far this month and think that monthly targets may be the way to go in the future.  Structure is good!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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