So I’m sorry about not posting recently, I’m currently on holiday and despite the changeable weather, we have still managed to fill our days so I’ve been away from my laptop. I have managed to read though: I finished my first American Classic – Native Son by Richard Wright and am on to my second – The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Reading is something that is very important to me. I learn so much about writing by reading how others write and it’s something that every aspiring writer should do.
Read everything and anything [including this blog], don’t just stick to the same genre you are writing: read other stuff too. If you’re writing a sci-fi then read a classic, read a horror or even better read a classic sci-fi ie. H. G. Well’s War of the Worlds. Don’t just read to say you read, read with the intention of learning. Take note of how the author explores and presents themes or the way they use literary devices. All of this will aid you in your own writing.
I have decided to take things a step further. So since I’ve been reading old classics I thought I’d give some classic children’s books ago. Not only that but a book in Swedish (which I have been teaching myself). I ordered the book online originally called Kometen Kommer which translates to The Comet is Coming and was published in English under the name Comet in Moominland which may be a bit more recognisable to you as the famous Moomin series. It’s written and illustrated by the Swedish-speaking Finn Tove Jansson and it’s a great book. It’s really interesting to see the difference between Swedish and English literature (they don’t use speech marks for one thing).
Anyway there’s something for you to think about. What sort of stuff is on you’re reading list? Are there any foreign books you’re considering? I’d love to know.
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My boots made a soft sound on the earth as I trudged through the long grass of the field. I could just see my dog a few feet in front sniffing around in the undergrowth. It was dark and there was no moon up ahead in the overcast sky. My eyes were adjusting and I could make out on the horizon the top of the hill which arched and joined the shadowed border of trees on the far side of the field. It was quiet but not silent. Crickets chirped, the branches creaked as the wind blew through the rustling leaves and out into the vast expanse of space above.
I tilted my head back and inhaled a deep breath, my chest inflated. Then I exhaled through pursed lips and with it came all the bad feeling that had accumulated since my last walk. I felt eternal. I carried on up the hill, looking out across the grid that was many other fields and woodlands, stretching out forever. There was a glow of artificial, orange light coming from the town that polluted the sky, rising up and illuminating the dense cloud cover. The wind turbine in the distance was silhouetted in this glow, making it appear even more imposing. I looked around and noticed more of these patches of light that bled into the sky, orange at first, then purple and finally blue as it faded into the sky.
When I got to the top I stood there and took in my surroundings. The dog was scuffling around in the bracken of the dead wood pile and I could see an old cider can glinting through leaves. I was reminded of my after-prom party, having all those people over to celebrate the end of school – thirty five in all. We had ventured out of the garden in seek of a thrill. I then thought back further to my first house party; my sixteenth and the small group of friends who I’d surround myself with. I realised that it wasn’t I who was eternal, it was the memories and the nostalgia didn’t make me feel so good about myself anymore. It only hurt.
I carried on walking, this time through the crops of the field that bordered this one. The plants stood up to my shoulders. I found a tractor track that cut through the field like a scar, the plants that grew here were dark and wilted. It wound through the earth like a snake. Following it, I watched as the dog trotted in and out of the crops on either side of the track. I walked around the corner and the track ended at the entrance of a field contained on all sides by towering trees. I would have to make my own way from here.
I looked out over the contours of the land that expanded out to the edge where the sky met the earth. There were clusters of trees, and little ditches were rivers flowed. That was where I wanted to be. I continued on…
Today has been quite draining, draining but productive nonetheless. Sadly I haven’t gotten around to writing any more of my book but that’s okay though because I tend to write better in the evenings anyway. Hopefully, I’ll make some headway with Chapter Two tonight but if not then there is tomorrow. I’ll count this post as today’s writing, a bit cheeky I know but hey, you won’t believe how time-consuming planning an Art History Essay is!
Yup, that’s what I’ve been up to today. I started the morning with my favourite – fried tomatoes and grilled avocado on toast with a poached egg *drools ever so slightly* – and then sat down in the dining room with the above textbooks and got stuck in. My aim was to find a selection of artist from different movements and take notes on how social features influenced them. It was harder than I thought and what made matters worse was the book I believed would be the best resource turned out to be very unhelpful and unlogical which coincides with my opinions of The V&A Museum (another resource I tried to use for another Art assignment). I had hoped that I would have been able to make a start on the draft of the essay but as it happens I only managed to cover Pre-Raphaelite to Constructivism with Dada and Pop Art still to go. Yet another task for tomorrow I guess.
So as you can see quite a bit to go. Oh and by the way, that page isn’t all I produced. Those textbooks are packed with post-it-notes just waiting for me to refer back to and I’ve left open a tonne of tabs on my laptop referring to other useful sources.
So now you know that as well as writing, I do a little art on the side or vice versa perhaps. Are there other hobbies/topics that interest you apart from writing? I’d love to know.
Now, I’ve gotta go and help my friend try and find a ticket for Reading Festival because all the weekend tickets are gone…
I managed to get the first chapter of my book down onto virtual paper yesterday which is a huge step forward after six months of plotting/procrastinating. So far I’m happy with it but I know that will have changed by the end of the week but I will resist the urge to revise it until the first draft is complete.
Anyway, I thought I might show you what I produced whilst plotting as well as the tools I use. Another blogger – nicholeqw1023 gave us a glimpse of her notepad and I thought I might do the same. Now of course, I use a computer to write the actual thing but for plotting it’s a notepad all the way. Writing by hand stops me from deleting ideas I think are rubbish. The likely hood the at some point in the future I’ll stumble across a problem, look back at the idea from a different perspective and realize it’s the solution, is quite high. It saves me from agonizing; plus it’s more satisfying.
So this is my notepad. Having it around just makes me want to write. It’s just the right size that it fits in my bag but has plenty of paper which is great! The pen is my Great Grandad’s fountain pen which had had lots of use – it’s over fifty years old. Sometimes, when an idea pops into my head and I don’t have my notepad with me, I grab whatever is around me and use that: scrap paper, waiter dockets, you can even see an old receipt I used in the background of the photo above, Costa of course.
When I plot things, I need to know more than I will put in and I’m sure a lot of you feel the same. I sketch out maps to track character movements and write down events prior to the actual start of the story. Below is a purposely fuzzy photo (I don’t want to give anything away just yet) of a map and the history of one character in particular. One character in particular because it helps me get a sense of the sort of person they are.
Apart from the usual character profiles and story timeline I also do a page on how characters develop in the eyes of the reader from beginning to end. Are there any other interesting exercises you do when plotting? What do you use to plot? I’d love to know.
I now love plotting. I don’t know why exactly: perhaps it’s the moments when I finally solve those aggravating questions of “how do I overcome this plot hole?” and “how do I express this integral part of the plot?” That is likely it, the sense of fulfilment I get when it appears that everything is coming together.
The first idea for a story I ever had: I dived straight in, floated for a bit and then sank – the idea was terrible. The second idea I had: again, I got stuck in and managed to cough up a five hundred page manuscript of utter crap. This one had strong characters at least but the plot was tensionless. It was after these successive failures that I came to realise that I need to plot my ideas. I am no pantser.
Now, I do the very opposite. I plot to the Nth degree: character profiles, timelines and storyboards, maps, the lot. But is this just as productive? A few days ago, I was sat with my notebook and pen (as well as an overly large coffee), and it hit me; I did more writing when I hadn’t plotted than I do now. Yes, what I produced was no feat of literature but at least I was writing. I looked at six months of plotting and decided that if I wanted to take this seriously, I’d need to start the damn thing or it would never get done.
I suppose there is only so much planning you can do before it becomes unconstructive. It can go on forever. Stories in the real world are not structured, they are spontaneous so it makes sense that a novel should, to some extent, be the same. The truth was, I put off writing because of how important the start is and how hard it is to get it right. After a long walk and a heck of a lot of talking out loud, I finally came up with the first line that would do the job I wanted it to do. So far, I’ve managed to write the first page and I think I’ve got the tone right or thereabouts, that is important to me. It’ll probably get demolished in a few days but at least I’ve made a start. I have missed this.
How do you guys plot your ideas? Do you plot? I would love to hear from you.
As I said before, I’m not very good at maintaining blogs. I’ve had many embarrassing, failed attempts in the past; some haven’t even made it past the title! Perhaps it’s because I don’t know how to write blogs, maybe it’s because I concern myself more with the numbers than the actual writing or maybe it’s because I go all hardcore and then fizzle out after that fifth, unengaging and waffly post. Hopefully not this time.
So after a little thought, I’ve decided to start this blog the way which seems most blindingly obvious – an introduction. So how do I do that? Instantly that issue of being a novice to blogging emerges before I’ve even published my first post. Too many questions all with one answer – practice. Practice and experience are what will make me a better writer and that is exactly what I intend to use this blog to do. Not to help me become a better blogger, but to help me become a better writer.
I want to write something every day, that’s my aim, even if what I write is rubbish. I may not post every day, I can tell already that that’s not possible. I’m forgetful, busy and the pressure of posting every day will likely result in what happened many times before – an abandoned blog with a handful of shitty posts. I’ll post anything I feel is worth posting, writing whatever comes to mind; what I’m thinking, what I’m feeling.
So how will I get over those other problems? If writing a blog itself is what was the problem last time then this blog with some luck will rectify that. Fingers crossed I’ll receive encouragement and feedback to help me get better. What about that number obsessed aspect of blogging? Well, all I can say is that this time, my focus will be on improving my writing – something I can achieve without those page views. If any of you have tips for writing blog posts or writing in general then please comment below, they will all be greatly appreciated.
P.S. I can tell already that I’m not going to get along with this Grammarly application – too thorough for my liking.