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Very happily, the computer repair experts have been able to salvage my work from the sadly broken laptop, and although the hardware is beyond saving, the data seems to be intact. Yippee!

Because of this, I’m spending some time catching up and checking through to make sure there are no corruptions and so on.  As a result, this post is not what I had planned, but is based on something I read today.

This week’s inspiration comes from a news article on my favourite space website – hubblesite.org – where they have announced the discovery of a planet under construction.

Immediately, I wondered what the new planet would look like, when it would be formed, if we humans would ever visit it.  It’s the start of a sci-fi novel, being built 176 million light years away.

As a writer, what I’m really interested in is characters – and alien ones are especially intriguing.  To test myself a little bit, I started designing a life-form.  Not the personalities – they come later – but the physical appearance.  It’s actually quite liberating not to write about human faces, but to think about different features.  A few questions emerged:

Are they humanoid?

Do they have skin, or scales, or feathers?

Are they carbon-based?

Do they have eyes, noses, mouths, ears?  Limbs?

Are they intelligent?

I came to an early conclusion that a story with a non-sentient, vegetation-type alien would be less than thrilling, so I stuck with intelligent, upright and slightly scaly.  Then I made decisions based on the position of the planet and the requirements for life – and how they would have access to these requirements.

All in all, I drew up a very clear picture, and the scope of the descriptive decisions I made got me thinking about the choices I make in my novels.  When I start re-reviewing novel two, I’m going to focus on some of the elements I’ve picked up on through this exercise, particularly around colour and texture.

It was actually a very useful exercise and one that bears repeating: thinking about everything I’d need to consider and understand to write a realistic alien made me realise how easy these things are to miss in more terrestrial characters…

Give it a go if you’re struggling with descriptions, it’s a good way to open yourself to more unusual ideas!

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering, I haven’t forgotten the poem from my ‘pick a name’ post, and will get back to that when I’ve checked all my data still exists 🙂

Happy writing

EJ

🙂

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Fairly expectedly, I didn’t get far in my revisions for the woods novel this week; I reached a point that needs something of a restructure and am still working out how to do it.

In the work I’ve done so far, I’m making the relationship between the two main characters more uncomfortable – this may sound like a bad thing but is actually important for character development.

The male character is in love with the female character, and they were best friends when they were teenagers.  But they have been apart for several years and the male character doesn’t know why. When the female character calls him out of the blue after the death of the woman who raised her, there is a lot of unspoken tension – even though something compels him to support her.

The segment I am now moving into needs some work to incorporate this awkwardness.

But I have to say that – despite my earlier horror at the many, many alterations I was making – I’m actually not too unhappy about the way the work during NaNoWriMo progresses. Yes, there are a lot of amendments, but as I read through it I can see that the characters are clearly drawn, their personalities reflected in their movements, actions and language. Maybe I was too hard on it – and myself – when I started the revision…

Or maybe I was right last time, and next week I’ll be saying I was wrong this week!

Other than that, I’ve sorted out the poems I was looking at amending.  I realised that if I thought the ends were too similar I only needed to fix one, not both.  It took me longer than I want to admit to realise this!  Anyway, I’ve done it and it’s pretty good, but I’ll look again next week.

Non-writing-wise, I’ve completed my last week of Astrobiology – this was my favourite week as it was the philosophical stuff about first contact. It leads me nicely into the next course which is a Philosophy course, and starts tomorrow.

But it also leads me straight back to writing.  It’s probably not the right time for the comedy book – my partner in mirth is hugely busy at the moment, so there’s a time issue anyway, but I’m so fired up by all that I’m learning, and the way different people can approach a question or an idea, that I want to use my new learning in a more practical, writerly way.  I don’t mean I’m turning to sci-fi (although I may attempt it in the future!), but that I want to write something that forces the reader to consider their own responses…  Not quite a morality tale but something where norms are challenged.

I will think on that a bit longer, but studying is inspiring on both a personal and a writing basis.

In other news – I read this article about how a company has offered to get books to the top of the best sellers list – for the bargain price of £46,000.  I don’t understand this; if no-one’s actually reading your book, what’s the point of going to the effort of writing, revising, editing, publishing, marketing etc?

Maybe I’m naive but I want people to actually like my work!

I’m going to leave it there for today and prepare myself for some philosophical thinking.  After all, I think, therefore I am…

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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Finally, here is the post I promised about news articles!  I’ve had to change it a bit to make it more up to date since I started 😉

I’ve often suggested reading the newspapers for inspiration.  This is something that was suggested when I studied creative writing and it is a rich source of ideas.   For me, the trick is to find the weirdest stories – the ones when my immediate reaction is either laughter or amazement, but some people might like crime cases or romances or science stories…

So I thought I’d look at a few stories, and give examples of the ideas that came to mind.  Please don’t take them too seriously!

1. The Horsemeat Scandal.

There has been a Europe-wide issue with the discovery of horsemeat in a number of beef products.  I don’t want to go into the ins and outs of a subject that’s been in the press for over a month (you can check out the link if you want more info), but suffice it to say there has been a lot of discussion, a fair few pretty terrible jokes, and a great deal of concern.

This seemed like the kind of story that could trigger a novel.  It’s so wide-ranging that it could cover almost any genre:

For the crime novelist, there could be international gangs of horse thieves, smuggling horses from stables to tables…

For the political novelist, perhaps there’s a cabal of secretive, shadowy types controlling the supply of food.

For a sci-fi writer this could be the starting point for a future where food production goes into the labs – only a terrible disaster destroys the production and people have to start surviving like the hunter-gatherers of the past.

For a romance novelist, how about some activists fighting for some truths about those food cabals, who meet at a rally?!

2: The retirement of Pope Benedict XVI

When the Pope decided to stand down, there was a great deal of surprise expressed in the media.  I knew that this was unusual, historically speaking, but I was not aware until I looked into it how unusual it was – you have to go back 600 years to see anything similar.

So of course this got me thinking about historical novels.  Perhaps one written from the point of view of Pope Gregory XII back in 1415, or it could be about the nature of the church at that time – or a simple person caught up in some way.  Or it could have nothing to do with the pope, and focus on something else at the time – eg the Battle of Agincourt (this is timely, as I’ve recently booked tickets to see Shakespeare’s Henry V for the first time – more on that another day!)

3: Discovery of a tiny planet

One close to my heart here – the has been a new planetary system found as part of the Kepler mission, orbiting a star similar to our sun.

This one is of course spurring thoughts of Star Trek-type interstellar travel, and the various inevitable challenges that would lead to.  It could also lend itself to a futuristic story based on Earth as we seek more resources to keep our 9 billion plus population safe and fed…

Or perhaps you could approach it as a poem – I like space poetry anyway but you can imagine the tiny planet, like a drop of water in a huge universe, and write about its potential – unfulfilled though it may (currently) be…

So there you go – a few examples of how I get from news article to writing idea.  Of course there are hundreds of stories to read every day, and some will be more enticing because you know the characters, or the place, or the subject – just go wherever your inspiration takes you.  Worst case scenario, you are better informed about something!

Please feel free to share some stories you’ve found interesting, you never know who might be inspired!

Happy writing

EJ

🙂

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Yes, it’s nearly time to say the first novel is done.  I cannot keep changing things forever, and although I’m well aware that there is a proofread yet to do, and any editor will no doubt change it, this is the version that I will send out for possible publication.

I have pretty much finished all the new writing – there’s maybe 200 words left to complete.  I don’t have a vast amount of time to re-read it before sending it off, so I’ll probably only do it once – but that may be a good thing!

All these extra sections have made it longer, so I’ll check that when I’ve read it through: I’m conscious of the ‘natural’ length of books within similar genres, and don’t want to stray too far off this guideline length.

I am now thinking about using the ‘NaNoWriMo’ model for a couple of other storylines I have in my head – I know I have the plans in place to start on book 3 but getting others on paper in some form will be a useful activity too.  I won’t do it through February but am strongly considering doing some planning in the next couple of months so I can run with the new storylines whenever I want.

I have also been continuing my publishing research.  So many publishers won’t look at manuscripts unless through an agent that it seems limiting not to consider this option: I have to learn a lot more in the next few weeks as this will be vital for my future book-publishing life.  If I can’t find an agent who is willing to take me on I can then decide either to re-work the novel or self publish.  It will be very much dependent on the feedback I get!

In other news – You may remember a while ago I was intending to take part in a free course on nutrition.  Unfortunately I missed the start date as I hadn’t realised how the site worked (a reminder that technology is not my thing!) so instead I have enrolled on a course on astrobiology!  Yes, it’s a bit of a leap but I love studying and miss it – plus I love space stuff, so why not?!

Also – A couple of days ago, it was Burn’s Night ; I love the idea of celebrating the life and work of a poet because I think that poets are underrated in terms of their influence on culture.  So although I didn’t celebrate on Friday, I will seek out some more of his poetry.  I’ll leave the haggis for someone else though…

And finally – talking of poetry, I’d love to hear whose poetry you enjoy!  I want to expand my knowledge of poets from other parts of the world and know you’ll have some great ideas where I should start…

Happy writing

EJ

🙂

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As I’ve been feeling a bit grotty today, I have only just started getting to grips with work – oops!

That means I haven’t really got an update for you so instead of saying what I have done, I’ll tell you what I will do before I go to sleep – and tomorrow I’ll own up if I don’t quite make it!

I plan to revisit my space poetry with a view to signing it off for this month – that will mean four new poems with structures, subjects, themes and any metaphorical allusions I care to use. As I said before, using words from alternative root languages hasn’t worked as I’d hoped so that will form part of the revision process, and all I’ll do for this month is write solid first drafts.

I will also look at my ‘speak Chinese’ book – I am trying to learn to say ‘I live in the UK’ at the moment. I probably ought to listen to the cd that came with the set but I’ve never yet found a language cd that I had patience to listen to all the way through…  Mind you, that could be why I’ve never been very good at languages!

So I’m off to get some work done – wish me luck!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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I have completed two thirds of project month now – and as today has involved no writing work at all, I thought I’d use the opportunity to check out how things are going…

Very late last night I ticked off Codename Wedding Belles – I finally have a structure and core I am happy with. Writing this has made it clear that a lot of my poetry is melancholic so that’s something I want to challenge in the future.

I’d already ticked off the plan for November for the second novel, so that’s two things ticked off in their entirety for this month.

Space poetry (ie first drafts) are about 90% concluded and the short stories for submission are about the same, just final tweaks plus cover letters and cover sheets to do.

‘Learning something new’ (Chinese!) is nearly done for this month – obviously it’s ongoing but I am just pleased to have finally opened a book I intended to start reading five years ago!  And I’m on phrase two…

Writing a blog post every day – I’ve just about managed so far, even if some posts sneak past midnight when I actually finish them!

NaNoWriMo from last year ie ‘The Story of One’ is about 25% of the target this month: my target was 30-40,000 extra words and I’m on about 8,500. I don’t think I’ll get there because scenes are being written out of context – but I hope to get at least 20,000.

Torch Tales is languishing nearly at the bottom of my list – so I will make sure that story outlines are in place for each ‘stop’ on the route, even if they’re not written completely.

And last but not least – despite my good intentions, I did not start picking poems for the pamphlet this week. I have thought about it but not in anything like the detail I should.

So there are ticks on my database – yippee! – but the clock is ticking more quickly than the database is being filled.  It has been suggested that I overestimated my capacity this month. Repeatedly. Still I know I need to push myself to complete things, and if nothing else this month is showing me what has the greatest impact on my energy, when and where I work most prolifically, and what the biggest distractions are so I can manage them in the future.

So – onward and tickward!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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Today I was supposed to complete the short story editing.  Maybe, if I had time, spend an hour or so on poetry.  It all seemed so clear-cut.

Well, I have done some more editing – but not to my satisfaction.  I need to look at the stories with a bit more objectivity tomorrow as I have cut the lengths to meet submission requirements.  This leaves me feeling as though the pace of the story has been affected and I want to make sure there’s no sense of anything being rushed.

I also spent some time on my poetry – redrafting ‘Codename Wedding Belles’ and working on the borrowed-word space poem.  I have changed that one a lot today – I have to be careful it doesn’t feel too much like a gimmick so I’ve rewritten it in ‘normal’ ie day-to-day language, kept the themes, and am going to then introduce the language elements in the revising stages and see if it works better.

I did look at another space poem but I only changed a few words.

Oh, and on the subject of poetry, I’ve been looking at pieces I might want to put into my on-line pamphlet.  I am not intending for the space pieces to be the first out there; I’m thinking about how it might work for a reader – so maybe split it into hours, or moods rather than all on a theme.  The target for this month is simply to choose the pieces, but I want to make sure they work together.

And finally I got on with ‘The Story of One’, working through the stodgy ineffective bit and getting the character back on track.  I’ll need to take a mallet to the first part of the new sections, eventually, but at the moment it’s just a means to an end.  It can sit and be stodgy for a while yet.

So today has been scattered and not very satisfying.  Still every step forward is a step closer to meeting my project targets – you never know, I might be able to tick something else off soon!

Happy writing

EJ

🙂

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Did anyone see Felix Baumgartner’s skydive?  I find it both terrifying to watch him literally fall to earth (even though I know there was a successful outcome) and awe-inspiring.  Life-affirming, perhaps.  One day, the information gathered from this skydive may save someone, which is brilliant in and of itself, but also this reminds me that the path may be long, but if you put all your effort in you can achieve something truly astonishing.

Not all feats are quite as amazing as this but on a personal basis have a huge impact.  So today I think we should all give ourselves a bit of a pat on the back for what we have achieved.  There’s always another target, or something we wish we’d managed, but didn’t: sometimes we focus too much on these and forget to enjoy our triumphs.

So – my mini-triumph today was (drum roll please)… editing short stories!

Yes, I did finally manage to get the pesky editing started.  I gave myself the time to regroup over the weekend, and I sat down to do it, and it’s (almost) done.   Only one more story and I’ll be able to send things off.

The break did me good, I think; and I’m really pleased with the outcomes so far.

Tomorrow I’ll aim to finish the short story editing and go back to my poetry pieces for a little while.

Ok, so it’s not a skydive from 24 miles above earth, but I’ll celebrate it anyway!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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I have decided, after two fruitless days in a row, that editing of short stories will be pushed until next week.  I am not doing well with it at all – I am reading sections, then re-reading them, and making random changes that don’t really have the desired effect.

In short, this target had a big red warning sign over it.

There’s something about short stories, I just seem to have a block about them.  When it comes to editing, I manage a few lines, a few paragraphs, and then I hit a wall.  Looking back, it’s always short stories that I complain about, and I am starting to think I should stop working on them and focus on the poetry and the novels…

But not this month – this month I have a target!

To make me feel better I researched where to send which piece, so I can edit with the magazine in mind; I’ll buy the most recent editions just to make sure nothing has changed in their focus, which I think will help.

Because I wasn’t working on short stories, I decided to do some more space poetry work.  I have now got four new poetry pieces in various stages of draft, plus one completely bonkers extra one written with modern and Old English, just for fun.  I have got mythology textbooks in a pile next to me – I’m really enjoying writing a poem about something I love, using a background of something else I love, it’s really exciting!

I also did some more work on the NaNoWriMo piece from last year.  For the sake of discussion, from now on it will be called ‘The Story of One.’ This comes from a point I make in the intro.  I wish I’d carried on writing it until it was completed – it’s hard to start again after such a long break, and not flowing as well as I’d hoped, but I’ll get to grips with it and until I do, I just have to keep going!

Tomorrow I am taking part in a charity workout (am exhausted just thinking about it!) so my output will be limited…  I am not setting any targets for the day, and will fit in what I can.  Tomorrow’s post may be very short!

Happy writing

EJ

🙂

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I am quite pleased that today has gone pretty much as planned: I worked on the Codename Wedding Belles poem, the plan for the novel and my space poem.  I got to tick off the first of my October targets and it feels as though I am achieving something concrete, for once!

Codename Wedding Belles still has no title, but the form is coming together with some personal references as well as a wider theme.  I am pleased with how it is forming, although it still has a way to go – I have taken lots of notes and drafted starting points before, and this is an amalgamation of a few pieces that work well together.

The plan for the novel has been revised with my changes from yesterday – they were limited but I do think the story has more substance now.  This is the first completed task for this project month (I have a plan to see me through NaNoWriMo) – if I have any more time later in the month to refine it I will do so, but I have done what I intended!

The first space poem now has proper form, its style is fixed and I’ve tidied up the language.  I think I’ll leave this one tomorrow and start the next, then come back to it with fresh eyes in a few days – this technique works for me otherwise I end up spending hours changing one or two words!

I also had a conversation with my ‘critical friend’ about the first novel – she is making notes for more particular discussions, but the feedback on the subject and the readability is very positive, which has made me feel really good!

So tomorrow, I’ll move on to another target for the month – I’ll edit a couple of short stories and prepare them for sending.  I said I’d send four – I have one ready to go, so that’ll leave me with one for next week and by the 20 October I’ll have sent all four off…

I’ll also dig out the NaNoWriMo piece I started last year, re-read it and get onto the next section.

I am sure it seems like I’m all over the place – but I have a database of work so I’m keeping track of it and it’s good to mix the planning, and the editing, with the new writing to keep me engaged!

Happy writing

EJ

🙂

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