Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Crime Goggles

The prompt from the DIY MFA book club this week is very difficult. The question that is asked is: What is your favourite story type?

I have been thinking about this for a while. Not in response to the prompt, but to writing and reading in general. I took the quiz a few weeks back and it said I like the underdog, but I am not sure that is correct. I like seeing the world put to rights.

Some of my favourite books and shows are Criminal Minds, Castle, and anything by Val McDermid.

However, I have come to learn lately, that when it comes to reading and watching anything in the crime genre, I prefer the actual crime to the story of the people who are solving it. It isn't that I have no interest, but that the crime should be the forefront, and the character development should be a side story.

I am reading Insidious Intent at the moment, and whilst it is a good book, I think it falls short of what I enjoy reading. There is a lot more focus on the private lives of Carol and Paula in particular, and some on Stacey. There is not enough detection in the murders.

Whilst I love the characters in the Hill and Jordan series, I was more interested in how they worked together to solve the crime, than how they coped with their personal life.

It seems to be the way, even with Castle, that as the series progressed, more focus went on to private issues within the Caskett relationship.

The only one which seems to stick to the crimes first and foremost is Criminal Minds.

So in response to the question, I think my favourite stories are crime fighting ones. I like the how and why of crime, and I like trying to figure out who it is that committed the crime.

But I am broadening my crime goggles, and intend to consume lots more crime fiction, and seeing if there is something I have missed.

What are your favourite stories?

Friday, 26 January 2018

Supporting Characters - What do they do?

Today, my butt is in the chair reluctantly. But nevertheless, I am here!

Because of ROW80 (and illness) I am behind on my book club posts. Today I am looking into supporting characters. The book club prompt is to say what my favourite supporting character is, and why.

In the prompt, I am given these archetypes - Villain, Love Interest, BFF, Mentor, and Fool  - and I am not sure which one my favourite supporting character falls in to.

When I think of my favourite books - The Dr Tony Hill and Carol Jordan crime novels - and my favourite TV show - Castle - I think it is safe to say that my favourite supporting character takes on the role as mentor.

Or is it BFF? I like my supporting characters to fully understand and love the main character. The supporting character needs to bring enrichment and new ideas to the table, without taking over and being the one doing everything. The supporting character is the 'great woman behind the great man'. In essence, I want my supporting character to...support!

They are the ones that hold it all together. When the main character can't take any more, the supporting character tells them to get their act together. When the main character is frightened, the support says 'I'm here'. The main character wouldn't be as good at what s/he does if it wasn't for the supporting character.

Like any good relationship, they complete each other.

And I need to remember this during the rewrite of my novel. My supporting character needs to support, and be seen to be supportive.

What is your favourite? 

Find out more about DIY MFA here.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Week 4 Update

I think I am finding my writing rhythm, and it is all thanks to the ROW80 challenge!

There is nothing like knowing you have to post an update to the ENTIRE WORLD to make that butt stick to that chair. And whilst I am finding some parts of my goals extremely challenging, I am perservering, determined to get them done.

So here is my update:

2 drafts of Novel and 1 chapter of Structure Your Novel per day.

Check. Well, I am doing well here. I am managing a 10 page edit per day. Monday I managed 30 pages. But I am not doing the rewrites. I found I was getting myself in all sorts of bother, as I wasn't too sure what to do with the bits I marked 'rewrite'. So I am just going through and noting what I want to do, and hopefully I will have completed Structure Your Novel and I will be able to put the puzzle pieces back together.

1 chapter of DIY MFA per week.

Done. Not much in the way of practical steps, other than doing the actual writing. I have read the chapter on failing, and how failure and rejection are essential to a writer. So I am hoping to write more, so I can fail faster and better.

1 lesson on the Mystery Short Story Course

Again, done. This weeks lesson was to start with the idea for a short story that I am goiong to write over the course of the next four weeks. As I am sat in a café and haven't brought along the worksheet where I had jotted ideas down, I needed a prompt. I found an awesome website/blog here, and used the 3 people confessing prompt. I am excited to turn it into a short story.

In other news, I am considering applying for the Writing West Midlands Room 204 Writer Development programme. I know my husband will roll his eyes at this, and I can hear him in the background saying 'Just Write'. I guess his advice is good too though?

Looking forward to visiting other ROW80 blogs, and as always, feel free to leave a comment! 


Monday, 22 January 2018

Resistance is Futile

The Borg got it right when they told the mere humans and other species that resistance is futile.

Today's post is brought to you courtesy of DIY MFA and the prompt:

Share a story about a time when resistance was your compass.

The background to this prompt is that resistance is the desire to run away from something. It is a primal instinct - the fight or flight - but now we don't really need it that often.

So when we have resistance towards a writing project, it is fear that is holding us back. Fear because that project is high stakes for whatever reason. So we avoid it. Better to avoid something you are frightened of right?

Wrong!

Resistance is futile. It really is! Now, I don't have any amazing story to share. I have always succumbed to my feelings of resistance. But one thing I can tell you is that whatever you are resisting, never goes away. The novel I am working on at the moment? That is the resistance project.

And maybe that is why I am finding it so hard now? The resistance is there. I don't know which way to turn. To write a new draft? To complete revisions first?

If resistance is the compass, then I need to follow that path.

On a side note - whilst I am struggling against resistance again, I am not about to give up. This is what I have always done. When it got to tough, I stopped. But this time, I am reaching out. If I get stuck, I know it's okay to seek help. It is not supposed to be easy. If it was, everyone would do it. It is time to show that I an not the chaff.

Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below. As always, I love hearing from you!

Sunday, 21 January 2018

A Round Of Words update

This is my first ROW80 check in on a Sunday. I don't normally blog on a Sunday. In the past, I would write the post and schedule it if I wanted it posted on the weekend. But that won't be possible if my check-ins are going to be accurate. So here goes.

2 drafts of Don't Forgive Twice completed. - I will edit ten pages a day (including the rewrite) and do 1 chapter of Structure Your Novel workbook per day.

I am pushing through the editing of the pages. But as I work through the workbook alongside, I am finding there are major changes that need to be made. I am considering a possible complete rewrite, but wonder if that would just be a waste of time. 

I will also finish the Writer's Village University course on writing Mystery Short Stories (approx. 1 assignment a week)

I have done the first assignment. There are 6 in total, so 5 left.

I will continue to work my way through DIY MFA at one chapter per week.

I am keeping up with this, alongside the DIY MFA book club. Both are helping me be more focussed and aware of what works for me.


The novel is a tough one, with major decisions to be made. I know the murder victim, but haven't quite pinned down why he was killed. I am currently listening to a podcast which is giving me insight into the world I am trying to develop. I have another witness/suspect in the pool now, but I must say, writing the novel is proving a challenge.

But with the support of my husband, and of course, you dear readers, I hope it is not just a pipe dream that will never be fulfilled.


Please let me know how things are going for you in the comments!


Thursday, 18 January 2018

The Worst Best Practices

Wow, I feel super busy! Well here is the next instalment of the DIY MFA book club discussion.

Today I am looking at "best practices" as shared by other writers.

Us writers are pretty fickle. When things start to slow down, we start looking outside of ourselves for the answer and try everything that other successful writers have done or are doing.

And when you read up on others' processes, you soon realise that it is not possible to do the same as them.

Now, if you work in a pub, there is only really one way to pour a pint. Yes, you might stand with your feet together, your knees bent, your back bent, standing to the side of the pump...but essentially, the technique is the same. And so it is with writing. The actual technique of telling a story is the same for everyone - the inciting incident goes near the beginning, the words need to be typed onto an appropriate word processor, you have to make sure the words are spelt correctly - but the process of producing that book is different for all of us. Some of us may prefer our knees locked and feet shoulder width apart. Just like pulling that pint, we have all been taught by someone how to do it. And when we started off, we did exactly as they told us. Then we started to lax a bit and find our own comfortable position.

Stephen King finds 2000 words per day comfortable. For others it will be more or less.

Julia Cameron suggests 3 pages of 'morning writing'. I wish I could do this, but I can't. Does this make me an incapable writer? No!

I've tried writing every day - then the house got unmanageable. I've tried writing when I felt like it. When you have finished sniggering, you can tell me how you think that worked out.

I tried writing at different times of day, in different places.

What I have learnt is the same thing that Gabriela learnt - there is no "best way". Yes, we all have to follow the rules, but how we get the end product out there is really down to us.

For me, I like outlining - but will happily stray from it during the first draft.

The biggest killer for me was (and this is the first time I have made it public) that the first draft of my novel is only 30,000 words long. I am not even sure I can call it a draft. To some, this will be a shock. I will get told it isn't worthy to be called a novel. But my process is basic story down first. I am in the process of redrafting. I will add the sparkle, colour and improve the sub plots. And hopefully it will grow.

The way I get things done, is by setting goals. This way, if one day I can't or won't write for whatever reason, I am still moving forward. But I work in the way that is best for me.

I haven't found my true process yet, I am still on the journey of discovery. But it is working for me so far.

How about you? What best practices bring out the worst in you?

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Keeping On

This is my first ROW80 check in. I only posted my goals yesterday.

So what have I learnt or done? A lot and not much at all.

Yesterday's post served a dual purpose. It was part DIY MFA and part ROW80. I got some comments to the post which I found really useful, and will be using during the redrafting stage of the novel. I think the biggest thing I learnt is that stories aren't created from nothing, and that it is okay to use prompts to add depth and direction to a story.

As for my ROW80 goals? I have edited 10 pages, rewritten and reprinted ready for the next round of editing. I haven't done anything on the Structure Novel book, nor the short story course.

But I am moving forward.

How about you?

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Ideas, Creativity and 80 Days

Today's prompt from the book club is about creativity, and how it is kick started.

Gabriela (the author of DIY MFA) showed us her ORACLE. It is a box of things that she has accumulated, and that she uses to inspire her. In her box are things like dice, fortune cookie slips, and prompt cards.

So I thought what it is that I do when I need a new idea. And realised this didn't happen very often.

Not because I have so many and I am good and write them down in my notebooks. I wish that was the reason! No, I rarely need to spark an idea because I never. Finish. Anything.

Except this sentence. And this one. I can finish sentences. But stories? Finish them to a point that I need a new idea to work on?

I do have books of prompts, and I like the Idea Square in Writers' Forum magazine (a UK based magazine). And occasionally I have felt like entering a competition, and have used these for that purpose. But I rarely do need to.

So, I will finish something. Anything. And start something new. Brand new. From the beginning. And then I will see how I inspire myself.

But when it comes to getting out of a rut in my writing, I find a good walk helps solve the problems I am faced with.

On another note, I have joined A Round of Words in 80 Days. I have only just joined, so don't know the whole ins and outs. But I gather it is like an accountability blog hop. And considering I never finish anything, it's got to be good, right?

So by March 21st, when the first round ends (there are 4 per year) I want to have achieved the following:

2 drafts of Don't Forgive Twice completed. - I will edit ten pages a day (including the rewrite) and do 1 chapter of Structure Your Novel workbook per day.

I will also finish the Writer's Village University course on writing Mystery Short Stories (approx. 1 assignment a week)

And finally, I will continue to work my way through DIY MFA at one chapter per week.

How is your week going?

Friday, 12 January 2018

Learn Your Storytelling Superpower to Write Characters That Are Right For You

In case you hadn't figured it out by now, most (if not all) of my blog posts are prompted by the DIY MFA Book Club. This one is not going to be any different.

Previous posts have been about something I might already know, even if only subconsciously. This time I had to take a quiz, and find my storytelling super power.

I am not surprised by the result, but I think it explains a lot about my writing and the character that I enjoy writing and reading about.

I am a wannabe crime novelist. I like delving into the depths of the human mind, especially when it is the mind of a delinquent. But I couldn't really find my groove. I am more interested in the criminal, the acts they commit, and their future, than the act of capturing them. But I wasn't sure how I could translate that into something readable.

Now that I have taken the quiz, I know how to step forward on my journey to write the story I want to write.

The result from my quiz was: The Underdog

You are the quintessential underdog storyteller and your superpower is creating relate-able characters who have a deep desire to change something in themselves or in the world around them. From rags-to-riches narratives to epic David-and-Goliath-style battles you craft stories with high stakes and compelling characters your readers can’t help but love.


This opens up ways I didn't realise. I need to take the person with nothing, and make them into something. This could be a criminal, a victim, a disgraced copper... 

One thing is for sure, I need to check my characters again. Rather than toeing the line, perhaps I need to dig deeper and find out whose story really needs telling. Is it really how the police catch the criminal? Or, for the novel I am writing now, could I change it to the story of the security guard, who when faced with the consequences of his actions, decides to turn the tables and repent?

One thing is for sure, it is food for thought.

If you feel that you haven't quite grasped the story or character you are trying to write, (or if you think all is fine!), check out the quiz here.

And don't forget to leave me a comment down there ↓ 


Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Time to get Real

Today, I didn't plan on writing a blog post. Well, no, I lie. I did plan it, but was going to leave it until tomorrow.

So what a fabulous prompt from Gabriella, author of the DIY MFA book, and founder of the book club of the same name!

In today's email, she asks us to consider our reality, and to think of a time when we had to honour our reality over writing.

This is a tough one. I am not so sure I ever do honour reality! I love writing so much, I need it for sanity. Just today I was thinking how I have a lot of thoughts that I need to 'write out'. But there are times when life is just too much and I physically cannot do the act of writing.

Today was a busy day, but I have still found the time to write this blog post. I wasn't going to, but I daren't let the book club down!

But as you will see from this post, December 2017 really demanded my time. As did October 2017.

October 2017 was my wedding month, so that was a flurry of activity, finalising things, doing things I perhaps should have done months ago, and it was enough to just keep the family alive amidst all of this. I don't recall writing anything during October. I certainly didn't blog.

Then December, well. What can I say? Not only the month that Christmas lands, but my Father-in-Law taking critically ill, then passing away, then having his funeral the Friday before Christmas! To say I was exhausted in every which way would be an understatement.

But I did get writing done. I had to. You see, I write for the church magazine, and the editorial team decided I could manage three pieces now the wedding was out of the way. Under normal circumstances, perhaps it would have been a breeze. But the day before they were due, I sat in the Critical Care waiting room, laptop balancing on my knees, notepad at the side, and quickly typed out those three pieces. I then got asked to edit one piece which was too long. I couldn't. At this point, my FIL had passed, and I couldn't face reading it, let alone editing. I haven't read those pieces since.


I had to write those pieces. I wasn't getting paid for it, but I needed to write them so I didn't let anyone down at such a late stage. I kept my toes in the writing pool by keeping up with the news, reading writing blogs, but couldn't face being with my characters.

I am back on the writing waggon now, and I hope that next time my reality knocks loudly, I will find a way to keep swimming in the writing pool.

Have you had any experiences? What advice would you give to fellow writers, who feel their writing life is sliding away?

Monday, 8 January 2018

My Origin

Today's blog post is from a prompt from the DIY MFA Book Club - which I highly recommend you join.

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. Whenever I am asked about what made me want to become a writer, I actually struggle to answer. I remember watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a young girl, and I loved April, who was a journalist/reporter at the time. I was young and naïve.


But I was fascinated by her. Although she didn't write, she led me to the world of news reporting. I didn't want to be in front of the camera, I wanted to be the one getting the news.

I then discovered writing magazines early on and started writing short stories and novels. I explored the possibility of being a newspaper reporter, but nothing came of that.

And here I am now, writing away. Nowadays, my inspiration is Richard Castle! I like his quirky ways. But as long as I don't procrastinate as often as he does, I will be okay.

And I would love to revisit my lovely April. I wonder what job she has now?

How about you? When did you realise that you were a writer?

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Apologies and Promises

2018 is here, and I am so ready for it. As you will have seen in my previous post, December was not a good month. As such, not much got done. But that is okay, as I had plenty of time to reflect.

Sometimes, we need a tragedy to learn what is important. I decided it was time to get to the roots again. I had been balancing too long on the pole at the height at which I wanted to be, but hadn't put enough of the ground work to stop the pole wobbling. So I fell. And I fell hard.


This new year is bringing focus. I will make myself accountable by adding my 2018 goals here. As you will see, they are much less ambitious than last year. That is because I want to focus on getting things done, rather than having lots of unfinished business. This blog will also see change. I hope to update more regularly, but it will be more of an account of how the writing life is, lessons I've learned among other things, than a 'how to'. I think this will make the blog grow more organically, and make it better in the long run. It will also help add to my accountability! So here are my goals:


NOVEL

'Don't Think Twice' to be completed by June 30th and ready to submit. This is a slightly extended deadline.

I have another novel I want to write, about an adopted child who learns the terrible truth about what happened to her mother. I want this ready for submission by December 31st.

OTHER WRITING PROJECTS

I am entering the Plymouth Writer's Group competition, so I need an entry ready for that. 

I also want to enter the CWA's Margery Allingham Short Story competition

I will update this blog two to three times a week.

OTHER GOALS

I will take part in StoryADay in May.

I am working my way through the DIY MFA book, and have joined the book club.

I will have days off, and days where I don't access the internet.

I will take up cross stitch again.



As you can see, my goals are pretty modest. As I write this, it is 11:34 AM and I have already achieved today's goals. This means I can get my cleaning done before the school run, so I can be available for my children when they come home. It is these simple things that I need to recharge myself. That is not to say that I won't do any more towards my goals today, just that I don't have to feel guilty if I don't! 

What are your goals? Are you reaching for the stars? Or watering your roots?