This week, I have achieved what I set out to do: I finished the first draft of my short story! Those last few pages went by so quickly but that might have just been the sheer enjoyment of using my typewriter over actually writing fast, who knows? That little stack of typed pages with the tiny punctures from the viscous full stop sat proudly on my desk for the whole of one evening until I had it in my hands and jammed it through the scanner onto my laptop. I had to settle for a free, somewhat temperamental OCR program which didn’t scan quite as accurately as would have hoped but saved me time in the long run instead of copying out the manuscript word by word.
It was then out with the red pen and metaphorical scissors for the long awaited editing. Those pages are now covered with scribbles, spelling corrections, rephrased sentences, suggestions for alternative words and phrases to check for repetition. I was surprised to find very little adverbs as it happened but I did remove a lot of “that”s (which I suggest you do too: you’ll be surprised at how unnecessary they often are and how much they disturb the flow of your prose) which found there way in.
Once I had finished with the corrections and ticked said corrections off (admittedly, very satisfying), I slung it into Grammarly for one final check and read through. It’s now been given to my first trusted guinea pig for a test read so hopefully they’ll come back with some improvements for me to make before I send it off to my second guinea pig.
I’ve also settled for a pen name!
So the last two or three weeks have been packed! I’ve finally got my Art A-level out the way for good having managed to bring all my work together onto mountboards as well as completing a fifteen-hour practical examination under the beady eyes of a somewhat pretentious examiner. Regardless of how it went, I have freed up quite a bit of time to focus on the other two subjects which is a huge weight off my chest. It’s also given me a little more free time in which to write – and that is exactly what I have been doing.
I’ve picked up my short story again from under all the other accumulating papers and bung it back into the typewriter; I’m now about three pages away from completion. I have to say that so far there hasn’t been a moment of writing this short story that I haven’t enjoyed and watching it come together is very exciting. I’ve reached the final scenes where a character’s madness is realised and the grizzly denouement is foreshadowed so I can’t wait to power on through and get to the end. Hopefully, I’ll finish it this weekend and get onto the revisions next week.
I’ve also started to put together my quotes bank for my English exams. This entails reading through all my books: The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Gatsby, Christin Rossetti Poems, A Doll’s House and Twelfth Night and selecting the write quotes to learn to help me answer the questions as well as reading further articles by critics such as Dr Pamela Bickley to help give “alternative interpretations” in my answers. It’s all very long winded but I’m getting there.
And finally, I’ve started to book hostels and trains for my month travelling around Europe. So far I’ve reserved seats on the Eurostar and booked hostels in Amsterdam and Berlin. Next is Poland and then Prague. I’m thinking of getting a lovely old film camera for taking photos – what can I say? I’m a romantic at heart, hence the typewriters. Any suggestions on cameras?
So here is my reading list for the next couple of weeks. There’s some older ones as well as some newer ones in there so I feel I have a good mix. I decided to hand type this on my new (or at least new to me) typewriter just for the fun of it.
You can also go over to my blog page and see the books I have already read: just click on “Reading List”
I think we can all agree that with writing comes some very pleasurable and satisfying moments. Some of the most simple ones for me are; when typing on a typewriter and all you can hear is the neat wrap of typeslugs against the platen or the small pile of paper you have at the end. I don’t write long-hand, though it is something I would like to try, but for anyone who does, is it more rewarding than writing on a computer?
In the last few weeks, there have been a few moments for me that stood out. As I said in my last post, I have been writing at least one line of prose every day and I can honestly say that it has worked a treat. Just last weekend I made it to 12,000 words! This for me is was a huge milestone – 10,000 would have been bigger but I didn’t realize I had made it that far because all my chapters are on separate word documents. This 12,000 words also meant the end of Chapter 3 which I have been stuck on for quite some time. I was finding it hard to write and keep it varied because the start of the novel is purposely repetitive. The character whose chapter this belonged to was one I hadn’t really looked into as deeply as the others so finding their voice was a lot harder. However, when I finally found their voice, as with the other characters, it became easier and I was able to get on with the story.
Talking about Chapter 3 – and no, I’m not going to give anything away – something happened that has never happened before. So there I was tapping away at my laptop; I’d worked my way through the checklist (because that’s how I write. I make a checklist for the chapter so I don’t forget anything and anything extra I add in is a bonus) and I was on the last stretch; coming up to the ending that had been going around my head for age and in that moment I put it down in words…I shivered. A shiver shot up my spine; the same shiver I get every time Bolt saves Penny from the burning film studio. I don’t know why. I think it had something to do with the fact that, in terms of the novel, it marked the moment when everything changes and something huge is about to happen. Or maybe because it meant that the beginning was finished and now the bulk of the novel gets to follow. Anyhow, regardless of why, that moment was very special.
So next is Chapter 4 which marks the introduction of the fourth and final main character, possibly the most titular of them all. I’m looking forward to figuring out how best to bring out their character in words. I’ll let you know how I get on.
Have you had a moment when writing that was was special to you? I’d love to hear what pleasures writing gives you guys.
Writing something every day is hard and I can tell you now that I have failed at it. Some days I feel so uninspired to write that I know whatever I write will probably be deleted moments after I write it. For a while, I was able to write every day. Remember that short story I was thundering through? Yeah, that’s still unfinished, sitting on top of my printer just waiting. The reason I had to stop was to write my History and English coursework. Both were mammoth tasks. I actually enjoyed them, researching sources not only made my coursework better, it expanded my knowledge. Reading various essays by historians on the causes of the First World War or by critics on Daphne du Maurier’s presentation of ‘The Supernatural’ in Rebecca only pushes me to try more in my own writing.
Anyway, back to writing something every day. A few weeks ago, I watched a TEDx Talks video on creativity and productivity (I would link it but I can no longer find it). Talking, was a graphic artist who had set out to get 10k plus followers on social media within a set time. He needed to produce something every day or near enough every day to achieve his goal but found that some days, after hours of working, he would often feel like the last thing he wanted to do was draw. As soon as he said that I knew that whatever he had to say next would surely help me. I had been experiencing the exact same thing: the last thing I want to do after getting home from college was to punish myself further by sitting myself down at another desk.
What he said next was he made himself draw one line, just one line every day. By the time he had set himself up to draw that one line, and once he had completed that one line, he felt he could draw another, and another. I have applied this to my own work, both writing AND revision. I tell myself that I will write one line every day; one line of my novel and one line of revision for English and History. Sometimes that is all I do but other times I end up writing a page or even two!
Something else he talked about was in response to the saying ‘practise makes perfect’. He found that drawing every day didn’t make his drawing improve, it remained the same. He could draw faster, but not better. He mentioned “Active Learning” which was (to put it briefly) seeking to improve by referring to others work and advice. Transposing this to writing, I think we can say that just writing every day won’t make your writing better. We need to actively seek to make our writing better by reading and researching what other writers do. Most days, as well as writing that one line, I will read something about writing prompts, dos and do nots; or watch a video by an agent talking about what they look for in a book.
Now having said this, I think it’s important to not get bogged down by this. At the end of the day, reading and watching ‘how tos’ doesn’t make you a writer; reading this post doesn’t make you a writer (but don’t go just yet). Writing makes you a writer. I know from experience that once you reach it to the bottom of a WordPress blog post, you’re greeted by a lovely list of ‘recommended posts’. You must resist. Save it for tomorrow. Now is the time for you to write that one line.
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…