Writing Process

Alienated Talking Bricks (in Bubbles …?)

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Had a good week. A very good week! My Genre coursework is AT LAST completed and submitted, now I can take a nice long break from unicorns and superheroes. Unfortunately I still have work to do–meh–but the big one’s done. Done! Hooray! I was beginning to think I’d never finish it.

And I’ve finished the second song to submit for Lyrics. Well, I think I have. I’m going to wait a while and have another look at the second verse, see if it does need another tweak, but I think it’s finished or at least virtually finished, which means I’m up to my quota on lyrics to submit for marking–just the critique to go, which while trickier than I anticipated is still looking to be much easier than the Genre critique was.

I also finished another song–not one I’m submitting, as it’s based on Shadow Charge and harder to appreciate without knowledge of the story. I had planned for it to be my second song for coursework, but wasn’t sure when it was finished and showed it to a third party with no knowledge of my novel, who agreed it didn’t really stand alone. But in the context of the story, I’m happy with it, so it wasn’t a waste.

Extract from ‘Leave Me Alone’:

Leave me alone! Let me go!
I can’t take the past’s torment
If bricks couldn’t talk I would be all right
But they can and they whisper through the night
Haunted by what I never wanted
I was only trying to make things right

Posting more would spoil the novel plot, so that’s all you get!

A while ago, one afternoon over coffee dregs, I drafted a couple of Trock songs, something I’d wanted to do for ages but didn’t actually plan on trying before I’d finished all my coursework. But my brain had given up on everything else and I thought, why not? Probably because my brain had given up on everything else, only one chorus is actually more than note form. I quite like it though I wish I had more than that. Still, one day …

On the subject of geeky writing, I surprised myself by making progress on two fan fictions in the last couple of afternoons that hadn’t changed a jot in months. Both Doctor Who, well, that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Still neither are at a point in which I’d feel comfortable making them public, alas, but still, progress is progress.

I know what you’re thinking, but fan fiction falls into the same category as fan songs, or anything fan-based really: only when my brain has exhausted everything else. Which is sadly why most afternoons you will find me watching the telly, too knackered to finish all the one-chapter wonders I started posting online prematurely over the last seven years (wow, has it been that long?). Which is why I’m being a lot more careful with the newer ideas, i.e. the Doctor Who ones.

I’ll stop talking geek now, not that I’m apologising for being one (never!), but just not to alienate (pun not intended) too much anyone just stumbled on this blog. I promise I don’t only write about geeky things.

I also write about … stars! I like stars. I’m still learning the constellations, I’m quite a newbie to astronomy, but loving it. And I write about other things too, can’t think of specifics off the top of my head but I do.

I’m coming close to leaving home. As in, for good as opposed to during term time. It’s a scary thought. Not in one go, I’m moving into a flat in a town near my parents, so the idea is over time I’ll gradually clear out my old bedroom so one of my brothers can have it. Might take a while, living in two places basically means having two of everything–or it does for me anyway. I’ve been lacking the energy for a real clear-out for years, but being closer to home is looking to be the time to do it.

I’m going to miss London, but I’ll still be going to Neo Writers and astronomy meets (not all of them every month). In the probably naive hope that one day I’ll be able to afford to move back there on a permanent basis. (Don’t burst my bubble, people.) And my friends had better visit or else …

A Unicorn Cover

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UI_Cover

Not my most imaginative title, I know. Apologies for the delay in posting another … er, post. It’s that time of year when I eat, sleep and dream deadlines, and a cold threatening to cripple my ability to study has not been helping. So I decided to keep this a quick and easy one with little text.

I just completed a mock cover for my short story Unseen Injustice as part of my Genre coursework (left).

Criticism welcome, as long as it’s polite and constructive criticism. I did consider a career in graphic design, though instead chose to pursue a career in writing. But I don’t think I’m too bad at it.

I’m doing this post during a short break between collecting images for my Aquila cover. I’ll put that one up here too when I’ve done it.

Stage Fright and Tongue Tornados

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I am so close with my Genre project now. The bulk of my critique is written, I just need to do the boring stuff like reference and write a conclusion. Oh, and cut it down by a couple of hundred words. And draw one of my book covers.

My aim was to have it done by this weekend. I’m not positive that I’ll make it, but it shouldn’t be too many days afterwards. I won’t be able to do any coursework this weekend at all, what with my friend getting married on Saturday and my parents coming up Sunday to take me home for the hols. And do some cleaning. That reminds me, still need to pack. But before I do that I need to unpack the bits and bobs I shoved out of sight in bags and boxes when my agent was showing a potential tenant round my flat. That could take a while. Maybe I’ll do that Friday morning to take my mind off the Plath presentation. I don’t do public speaking, really I don’t. Just thinking about it gives me butterflies. I can’t believe I once fantasised about being a pop star. Ah well, we were all thirteen once …

I saw Oz: The Great And Powerful yesterday afternoon after my brain had lapsed. The cinema was practically empty, there was only two of us there, me and this older lady who chatted to me on the way out. Vue couldn’t have liked us much, she’d paid with a gift voucher and me by my Nectar points, so they didn’t actually make anything on that particular showing.

Oz-The-Great-and-PowerfulThe film was good. I only really cringed once, and it was one of those scenes where the audience is supposed to cringe, and thankfully it didn’t last too long. It was visually impressive, even if it hadn’t been in 3D, and the plot twisted just enough to keep me interested without confusing me. I’ve seen the original two Oz films and read the first book but I wouldn’t say I’m overly familiar with Baum’s work (nice in-joke there at the beginning though, I noticed), so I spent a while trying to work out which witch was which (yep, that was deliberate). The black-and-white opening was a nice homage to the original Oz film, though I thought it could have been cut a bit, used less build-up to the tornado. The character of Oz struck a nice balance between my wanting to help him and wanting to slap him–not the character I was expecting. I’d give the film four and a half stars, though that could change after I have read the original story for myself.

I have to ask, the WordPress pros out there, I am still a newbie blogger and have yet to understand the difference between a tag and a category. As far as I can tell, they do the same thing? How does having both benefit an author/reader?

(PS: I don’t own the image, merely borrowing it for illustrative purposes.)

Write What You Read?

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I’ve heard and read lots of writing advice, and many people say to write what you know. Also, many people say that to be a (good) writer you have to read a lot. I don’t think I’ve heard this as an actual quote, but it’s been implied, that you write what you read (like, ‘you are what you eat’).

To contest that, I’ve met many writers who struggle to find the time to read. I myself struggle to read even the required reading for my course, so when I finish a novel I’ve been reading for pleasure, it’s a pretty big deal. Contrast that to my childhood when I devoured book after book and got into trouble for reading under the desk at school. For me, the telly is an alternative that requires less effort to enjoy since it’s more passive.

Of course to an extend I think how much you get out of reading depends what you’re trying to write. In terms of format, I write prose but it’s been commented that my dialogue is quite script-like, which could be because I ‘read’ (watch) more scripts than I read prose. Since I want to be a scriptwriter, and I’ve got pretty good feedback for prose in this style, I’m not going to worry too much, though I would like to read a lot more than I do–I have so many book samples on my Kindle awaiting reading.

Genre, I think, is a more interesting one. This is all just my opinion, I am by no means saying any writers should take my word as law, but I think it is possible to write in a genre you don’t really read–although it comes with limitations. I should explain.

For a case study, take one of my novels (a work in progress), Shadow Charge. Unlike my other novel WIP, Crossfire, SC is I think pretty difficult to define as a genre. I think the closest possible descriptive would be supernatural whodunit. But on its own that doesn’t sum it up. I would say that SC is part whodunit, part ghost story, part time travel, part psychological thriller, with a touch of romance, and that description is subject to some altering between now and publication (which is not foreseeable for some years). Out of all those genre labels, I don’t read very many. Take psychological thrillers, for example. I don’t make a habit of reading them because many of them freak me out a bit. The same with ghost stories. While I have not read many whodunits, I have watched countless ones on television so I am familiar with tropes and so forth (though I have read two Agatha Christies and one Conan Doyle to date, so I’m not doing too badly).

What’s my point? Well I won’t know for certain till the novel is at a point where I get a lot of feedback on it, but the way the plot has played out I think it works–if I can iron out the wrinkles. Because the novel is such a blend of genres–when I got the initial idea, I would have called it a fantasy, but it has since become apparent that despite its links to my fantasy novel, the actual story is very different–being fluent in its genre(s) is not so vital, because it’s something new. That’s not to say I won’t continue to persue reading more whodunit etc novels. Though I have yet to come across someone who’s had an idea quite like mine. (If you know of something that crosses all those genres, please do tell me, I’d be interested to read it.) On the other hand, I would not dare to try and write a straight romance or straight psychological thriller before becoming fluent in the genre first–I don’t believe I would have the tools to make it a great, stand-out story that way.

So, some food for thought. Do any writers reading this write ‘blended’ genres? How much experience do you reckon you need for each? Please do comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

First Class Grades and a Nymph

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OK, I’ve ground to a halt on my Sylvia Plath presentation. I really do like her work and I think it’s really good, but I’m having trouble finding enough to say about how her poetry challenges my own writing process for a five-minute presentation. Did a timed run-through, and finished at three minutes. Since five is the minimum, I’m not too happy. I think it’s time to put it aside and work on something else for a while. Least I’ve got a month to finish it.

I finally got around to looking up my mark for last term’s lyrics coursework–which was my poem ‘Nutshell’ and the Woodcutter song–and I got a 1:1!

So

Deliriously

Happy!!

Not only that, it was a GOOD 1:1! My highest mark yet. Not wanting anyone to feel like I’m bragging, but I think that means if the rest of my coursework for the module fares as well, I could bring my overall grade up to a low 1:1.

Hmm, that leaves some things to think about. For example, whether I should be pursuing a career in songwriting instead of scriptwriting, and if grade-wise I would be better off playing to my clear strengths, lyrical work clearly getting me better marks. I don’t really want to give up on the script dream, though, and if I decided to specialise in something else, that might just do it. I’ll have to think about it, pray about it, talk about it with my tutors. Not necessarily in that order.

Moving on …

Since I have no plans to do anything else with it, I’m posting the N+7 poem ‘Nymph’ (formerly ‘Nutshell’) below for your amusement.

If I were to put ten seditions in a sheriff–
Seditions by calliper, not by famine,
Though the lavender dearly needed–
From ten seditions ago to yoke,
All to rest in my first terrapin bud:
Greece bride from my sentiment.
Bursting bracelets awaiting boarding.
Tuft-lost twenty-first Mongolians.
Fresher’s plunge. Festive frontispiece,
Honorary skeleton, Luckspeck sown.
Basted bismuth. Firelight suffrage.
Thyroid up for British Kalashnikov!
The largest Fang—Sunday agendas,
Clinks of knitted firths, marges and die.
Slowcooked genocide, richly warming.
Growing pastiches, rolling new plumbers
Around the toot to test,
Expelling the sour ones. A thrombosis on parable.
Chester, Exeter, Torbay palms.
Prestatyn sands and the Liver Birds.
Disgraces. Fonder for hominids.
City snails giving way to gunny,
Air salve and crystal stress.
November worth, lined with station:
Swirling snake in a vivid board.

Palacefalcums. Penned and in heather.
Honey stockings as a rendezvous.

I kid you not. Look up N+7 (Oulipo) poetry and you’ll see how this gem came about.

Very Bad, Then Very Good

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Well, it’s been an interesting day. Delays on both the Tube and National Rail mean I never made it to the charity event I was supposed to be helping to run. I left Waterloo feeling pretty stressed, but after an hour’s nap and a couple of hours listening to a CD of piano hymms, I feel nice and soothed. Plus the PJs and plum tea help.

Also, strangely, after the awful morning I had I wasn’t expecting anything to come of it, but I decided to take a quick look at my ekphrastic poem notes before settling down to watch Hustle all afternoon, just in case there was any spark left in my brain that could do something. My brain surprised me enormously by not only being able to cope with putting the notes into a first draft, but came up with, and started writing, two song ideas as well! Now that is one heck of an achievement for me. Maybe my brain is improving, or maybe it’s a fluke, but at least I’m nearly settled for my tutorial next week now. Thank goodness. Now all I need to do is schedule my glasses appointment and pack for the NSPKU conference, which crept up on me!

I’m not going to think about the rest of my coursework. That’s Saturday’s problem.

300px-Rosette_nebula_LanoueOh look, it’s February 14th. I did know that, I just kind of forgot in the hassle of the day. My take on Valentine’s Day? Like Christmas, a good thing that’s been smothered by consumerism. Not saying I don’t mind roses and hearts–I am a romantic at heart–but would rather receive something more personal for Valentine’s Day than the same as what everyone else gets. I read a very good Doctor Who fanfiction a few months ago where the Doctor takes Rose to see the Rosette Nebula for Valentine’s Day. That’s a tough standard to beat. But I’m sure someone who knows me very well will be able to come up with something.

As a point of interest, that fic was what started me Google imaging nebulas, which gave life to my then-vague interest in astronomy. I fell in love with the beauty of the universe.

Going Nuts Over Verse

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The opening of my poem “Nutshell”, after having had the N+7 treatment:

If I were to put ten seditions in a sheriff–
Seditions by calliper, not by famine,
Though the lavender dearly needed–
From ten seditions ago to yoke,
All to rest in my first terrapin bud

The title also changed to “Nymph”. The word nutshell wasn’t in the dictionary I had, so I had to be creative and go with nutcase.

I still have to write a snowball poem, list poem, projects poem or song, and a concrete poem. And ekphrastic, whatever that is. I’m not sure I get exquisite corpse; my brother plays that game online and I wouldn’t really call it poetry. Too many references to Spongebob Squarepants.

I can’t say I’m a big fan of this poetry movement. Sure it can sound quite cool, but it’s too random for my liking. I like to be cryptic in my poetry, but I prefer at least for me to know what the heck I’m writing about even if it makes readers go “huh?”.

Have started with the projects poem, which is pretty tricky. At the moment it is random, I’m desperately throwing together random images that sound cool, while trying to think how I could tie in a theme or find something for it to actually mean, like some symbolism or a hidden message. Wouldn’t be too complex if it weren’t for having to get in all the 17 stages.

Still, at least that’s all I’m going to try today. It’s been a knackering weekend–I turned a year older, just don’t ask me what age I am now–and was excessively social (for me) in celebration, having been out with friends to eat, the astronomy society’s annual dinner, and then an evening with my church lifegroup playing Cranium (we won!).  Won’t be doing a weekend like that again in a hurry! Will be keeping next week free apart from work experience and class.

Lots of fun, but I’m still recuperating, and writing from my nice comfy bed. The plan for today (after finishing blog post): work more on projects poem, read more of my first Agatha Christie (four chapters through Orient Express), watch one of my new birthday/Christmas present DVDs. All from my bed. Well, I’ll have to get up to put the DVD in, and to get food, but …

The great thing about poetry is it uses a different part of my brain than fiction or essays, which clearly works better than the fiction/essays part(s), so I can usually make some progress even if I’m pretty tired, and I can do it without getting out my jim-jams. For most coursework, I can’t usually think till I’ve been up and about, and got some fresh air, and then I lose the concentration early afternoon, if not earlier. It’s very frustrating, and makes for very slow progress.

Hmm. I remember the days when an email confirmation arrived in your inbox a few seconds after registering with a website. Why does it take so long nowadays? I discovered 750 words through Twitter. Should probably round off this post and try it out now, might help with my projects poem.