When You’re Struggling…

I’m not telling you anything new when I say it can be a massive effort sometimes to stay motivated. The key is how to solve it.

When I’m struggling I take time out. I know that’s not always possible if you’re working under pressure but usually I’m okay at getting stuff done if there’s a certain amount of pressure. The problem comes when no one is there to press you to do something, when it’s all down to self-motivation.

For those who don’t know, for the last few months I’ve been working on a novel, something I’m choosing to do for my benefit alone. In other words, it’s totally down to me to get the thing written.

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Progress was going well both in terms of character development and plot, then, quite suddenly, I stopped. (You might have noticed because it’s been a while since I last blogged too). There wasn’t one particular reason for this sudden apathy, things were just getting too much and I was struggling to find the time. Now I’ve taken just over a week off writing.  I know this will set me back because I’ve lost the thread of the bits I was working on, but it was so completely and utterly necessary. Sometimes taking a break will do you more good than anything else. I now feel refreshed, revitalised, and have a whole bank of new ideas to bring to the table. I’m excited to get these new leads down on paper and even more excited to tell you all about them, but I won’t spoil the surprise just yet.

I’ll keep you posted. Over and out –

 

The Garden, Part III

Read the first part here,
and the second part here.

The next day I resume my position in my chair. The clouds have knit together across the sky causing a gloom I don’t believe will never shift. It’s funny how much the weather seems to affect my mood. I flick through the latest copy of Gardener’s Weekly but soon the neighbours’ voices become intertwined with the words on the page and I pause to listen.

“Can’t you find some way to forgive me?” he asks.

It’s as if the conversation is continuing from yesterday. An electric blue butterfly catches my gaze.

“I don’t know. The kettle’s boiling, come inside.”

The butterfly, with all its exotic patterns and intricate filigree, flutters away.

I don’t know what’s going on between them. I’m not usually one to pry, and I am content in my little sanctuary, but I feel as if I need to know.

Watch this space for the next instalment.

The Garden, Part II

Read the first part here.

It’s a Friday afternoon and I’m sitting in my chair, a straw hat firmly atop my head to keep the sunlight at bay. Sparrows flutter in and out of their nest and bees hop from one milky buttercup to the next, but that’s not what holds my attention. There are voices on the breeze. One the jagged tones of a man’s speech, the other a woman’s, bright as a dropped gem. Some of the words blend together, a myriad of textures overlapping. I uncross my legs and lean forwards.

“Why would you do it?”

“I don’t know. I’m sorry.”

A door slams and the words are pinched from the air. I turn back to the swallows. The life of a bird must be so easy. I envy them and their simplicity.

Watch this space for the next instalment.

The Garden

I push open the gate, the white paint flaking off in chunks, and walk into the garden. I remember when the lawn used to be freshly trimmed, now it’s an overgrown haven for voles and mice. They scurry about beneath the foliage, the leaves trembling as they pass. Birds nest in the trees overhead. When they hatch I will watch as the mother regurgitates food for them. When they are strong enough I will watch as they make their first attempts at flight. I watch everything from my garden chair. It’s a deck chair really, one of those pink and white stripe ones meant for the beach, but I make the rules here. This is my safe place. This is my sanctuary. This is my Eden.

Newspaper Feature

Now I know this isn’t anything to brag about but since I’ve just worked out how the link works, and it’s proof of my writing being out there in the big, wide world, I thought I’d share it on my blog. Just a couple of weeks ago a short story I wrote was featured in the student newspaper at my University. If you’d like to read my piece simply turn to page 12. Enjoy.

 

My Writing Journey

Writing is something I have always wanted to do. When I was little and mummy asked me what I wanted to do with my life I answered I wanted to be an author (I also wanted to be a pop star and model on the side but let’s face it, no one is that talented).

Writing

I admit I wasn’t much of a reader when I was at school. I liked books but they took me such a long time to get through I got frustrated with them. I even struggled to read the Harry Potter series – although let’s face it, JK Rowling doesn’t exactly write manageable stories for child readers, as original and fantastical as they are. I didn’t start reading until out of the blue I decided I wanted to study English Literature at A level – when I was already in my second year, may I add, and had to do it at double the speed. A Level English Literature isn’t exactly heavy going when it comes to reading, but it gave me a good start. During the whole course I only read Jane Eyre, The Great Gatsby, Measure For Measure, Macbeth, Atonement, Lord of the Flies and Never Let Me Go, alongside a handful of metaphysical poetry and the dreaded Carol Anne Duffy. (Someone take over as Poet Laureate PLEASE).

Then I chose to study English Literature and Creative Writing at University. In 2013 I found myself at UEA, the home of creative writing in ‘the city of Literature’, as Norwich is known. With Angela Carter, Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguro all alumni how could I fail?

The journey I have been on over the last three years has been quite remarkable. My writing in my first year showed all the typical beginners mistakes, but then, in my second year, I had an amazing teacher. That was the pivotal point where everything changed. I got vital criticism on my work. In Creative Writing class we ‘workshop’, we read each other’s work and pluck it to pieces. People ask ‘why’ not just about your characters, their motives and reasoning, your plot points and overall structure, but about your specific word choices, syntax, grammar and punctuation – the whole shebang. The pieces I turned in as coursework weren’t groundbreaking but I was growing as a writer, I was learning, and that’s more important than anything. This year, what with my dissertation and the arrangement of my modules, I haven’t had a lot of Creative Writing classes, but still I have learnt a lot about my personal writing process.

Necessary to good writing is copious amounts of reading. Obviously my degree had me reading approximately 50 novels a year, but even that isn’t enough. Doing a Literature Degree also has your reading specific ‘types’. You find you’re suddenly an expert on Tolstoy, Austen and the Brontës, but what about contemporary fiction? This is what I’m now ploughing my efforts into in my spare time. Hopefully with this bank of knowledge within me my writing will grow every day.

The next thing is practice. Not a day goes by that I don’t write something, even if it’s rubbish. Sometimes that rubbish will trigger a better idea, sometimes it can be edited into something worthy, and sometimes it needs to go in the waste paper basket, but it’s all good practice.

My degree is over in just two months and I can’t wait to get started on what life has to offer. Hopefully I will have just as much time for writing when it’s all done as I do now, but I somehow doubt it. Nevertheless I will continue to make an effort and I will continue to learn and to grow. Hopefully within a year or two I will be ready to send something to an agent. We’ll see.

 

Formatting For Publication

When you’re sending off a piece to a publishers then it’s of paramount important to format it properly, other wise it’s more than likely to end up in the bin without even a glance. You want to give your writing the best possible chance – so try not to piss anyone off with dodgy formatting before you’ve even started. If you follow these simple guidelines then you’re off to a good start.

writing

1. Put the title of your piece and your last name in the header – this way it will appear on every page. Align this to the right so it doesn’t interfere with the reading of your manuscript.

2. Use a standard easy-read font such as Times New Roman and make sure to use 12 point font. Oh yeah and stick to black, no-one’s going to appreciate a rainbow manuscript.

3. Use a single space only between each word. If you’re in the habit of double spacing, as many people are, this isn’t the end of the world, but single spacing is now preferred.

4. Page numbers. This is a big one and it’s surprising how many people forget. It’s usually neater to have it in the header with your name and title e.g. (Blatchford/A Wasteland/6)

5. Use 1 inch margins on all four sides.

6. Align to the left, do not justify the spacing.

7. Indent each new paragraph by half an inch. DON’T leave a space between your paragraphs.

8. But DO double space your whole piece.

9. If you’re manuscript has chapters ensure to start each new chapter on a new page, about a third of the way down the page. Make sure to centre the chapter title or number.

10. At the very end either us a # sign or the words ‘The End’ to indicate the reader has reached the intended end for the story.

So there’s my 10 points to go through when you’re submitting a piece of writing for publication – but do check the individual publisher’s guidelines in case they have any specific preferences.

Publishing

Another thing is to not forget your title page. This must include:

  • Your contact information: Align this to the left and single space it. This should be the first thing your reader sees. Include your legal name, address, phone number and email address. List the word count next.
  • Title and author: Roughly half way down the page, and entered, write the title of your piece – usually in capitals – then, on the next (double spaced) line write ‘by’, ‘a novel by’ or ‘a story by’ and include both your legal name and pen name e.g. Mary Blatchford writing as M. E. Latch
  • Your agent’s name and contact information
  • Page header: Your title page should not have a header and your title page should not be included in your page numbering. The first page of your writing should start at page 1.
  • Genre and subgenre: State where your piece lies.

 

Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll heighten your chances of getting a thorough read. That’s all from me, over and out –

Common Spelling Mistakes and How to Remember Them

Maybe it’s just me but I feel like spelling mistakes are becoming more and more frequent and as a result, more and more annoying. Here’s some that really get on my nerves.

Spellings

Definitely and defiantly are two different words. Definitely is doing something for definite. Defiantly is being bold and disobedient.

There, their and they’re. I can’t believe people still get this wrong. I learnt this is Primary School. ‘Look over there.’ ‘That is their pencil.’ ‘They’re being mean.’ This last one is short for they are. That’s not even the same word.

Bare means naked, but to bear is to carry something. A bear is also a brown furry animal, but most people keep that one straight. If you can’t bear to remember it all, just imagine a lumbering grizzly carrying a heavy load, and you’ll bear this knowledge with glee!

Tomorrow. One ‘m’, two ‘r’s. Because you’re doing it on the morrow.

Necessary. I have a good pneumonic for you. Never eat cake, eat salmon sandwiches and remain young.

Lose and loose. ‘I’m scared I’ll lose the race.’ ‘My trainers are tied too loose.’

Your and you’re. Much like there, their and they’re, I don’t know how people get this wrong. They’re completely different words. ‘Is that your handbag?’ ‘You’re so thoughtful.’  You’re is an ellipsis of you are. Get it right.

It’s and its. It’s is another contractions. It’s is only used for it is. Its is possessive. ‘The dog loves its toy.’

To, two and too. ‘Let’s go to the park.’ ‘What about you two?’ ‘Yes, we’ll come too.’ Too means as well and two is a number.

Weather and whether. ‘Is the weather supposed to rain or shine?’ ‘I don’t know whether or not to go for a bike ride.’

I think I could actually go on forever so I’ll call it a night. Sorry for the rant. Over and out –

3 Days, 3 Quotes: Day #3

Thanks again to A Bibliophile’s Obsession for tagging me!

This is my third and final day of quotes!

The Rules:

1.) Thank the person who nominated you
2.) Post a quote for three consecutive days
3.) Nominate three new bloggers each day

Quote:

“The first draft of anything is shit.”
― Ernest Hemingway

My Nominations:

Em Does Book Reviews

Becoming the Oil and Wine

Critical Dispatches

A Wasteland

So I’ve been working on a short story. In total I’m aiming for about 2,000 words (I think). I never really let anyone read my writing so this is a bit of a first for me. I suppose I had a bit of a carpe diem moment. Let me know what you think of it so far!

a wasteland

The field is Autumn. Before you right now is the true definition of the word, all wrapped up in orange leaves, tied with grass.

Looking around yourself you notice the emptiness of it all. The dry, rural landscape that extends as far as the eye can see. A small part of you wonders if the whole world looks like this, one vast ginger ocean undulating in the breeze. The stems talk to each other in rustled whispers. You wonder what they are saying.

It hasn’t always been like this, just a few months ago the whole place had been vibrant and alive. Fresh crops had been dug: carrots, potatoes, red onions and parsnips. Then there were the herbs too; new sprigs of rosemary had adorned your roast chicken. You used to walk in the gardens, pausing to sketch the forget-me-nots and hydrangeas. Starlings used to flutter in and out of the birdbath splashing water onto the freshly cut grass.

Now it’s a wasteland. The drought has killed everything. You can’t imagine there’s anything living out there anymore. The field has the appearance of being burnt, as if the whole lot at some point went up in flames. The scorched earth is hard beneath your bare feet. It may be desolate but it’s still beautiful to you. You remember the life that was once there.

You look to the side. The sun is setting in the west. It sinks below the creosoted fence, the last rays shining through between the slats. They are mild, like the soft shine of the sunrise through the nursery blinds in the morning. The clouds have turned pink, but like watercolours they blend effortlessly. Thin wisps swirl intricately together.

Running your hand through the dead grass slices your translucent skin. When you examine your palm you notice little paper-cut lines have appeared whiter than your skin. Thrusting the hand back into your pocket, you follow the winding gravel path back to the cottage. You come to the row of wild roses, standing stern against the flat grey wall, leering at you with ruffled faces. Bending down you scoop up a handful of rich, tobacco-coloured soil and let it crumble through your fingers. It’s still damp from last night’s rain. It was the first rain in weeks but somehow the roses have survived the entire summer. Perhaps they are magic roses. The white ones are your favourite, so bright and pure. You heard once that white roses symbolise everlasting love, whereas red roses signify a short passionate affair. You can’t remember where you heard it and you’re not sure you even fully grasp the concept of love but the thought of something lasting forever comforts you.

The wind picks up and blows your hair across your face. You breathe in a mixture of coconut shampoo and rose petals. Rising from your crouched position you know you need to return home. Lily will be waiting for you.