Monday, 31 March 2014

Blog Tour ~ My Writing Process

There's a blog tour occuring in the world of writers just now, and today it's my turn to tell you a bit more about my writing process (so my natural phenomenon post will need to wait a bit...)

I was handed the 'blog tour baton' by my writer friend, Rebecca, who blogged about her own creative process last Monday here at her lovely new website The Magpie Diaries, which is overflowing with creative thoughts and inspirations.

So here's the answers to the questions I was set, offering some insight into my writing world:

What am I working on?

The project I want to devote most of my time to is my second young adult novel, but I think I've tried to overcomplicate the plot in parts, so this really needs to be stripped back a bit before I get it back on track.  Lately I've been writing a lot of short stories, flash fiction and have recently returned to some poetry. I like the fact I can experiment with my style in shorter pieces and I feel it's a way of trying to teach myself how to improve on the flaws of my longer pieces (such as learning to add in a bit more narrative drive and description). I've also started work on a novellla, but my heart is definitely pulling me back to that young adult novel...

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

For my young adult novels I'd like to think the mystery elements are tackled in a fairly original way, and I like to have a subtle danger and doubt tied up in the main romances as I think that makes it a bit more interesting. A strong female protagonist is important to me, so the challenge is to balance that strength with the vulnerability I think every seventeen year old girl feels.

Why do I write what I do?

My novel length ideas and writing style developed naturally into a young adult focus - I don't think it was something I necessarily consciously woke up and decided to do, although the fact I love reading YA books probably was a big influence! The idea for my first YA novel had brewing for a while and then one day my main character started to fully form in my head and she started to piece it all together for me. I really like writing for this age group as I think there's scope to tackle interesting issues.

I love the freedom of writing shorter pieces and these are for a different audience. I think I sometimes tap into a more experimental part of my creative brain when I tackle the short stuff -probably because it feels safer taking a risk on a piece you're not investing quite so much time in.

How does my writing process work?

With my short stories a glimmer of an idea/situation can pop into my head and I'll just sit down and start writing and see what happens. This can be the way a novel starts too, but at some point I have to try and structure a bit more of a plan. It does amaze me how much your subconscious can work things out before you do. I'm a fast typer which means I like to type everything, though I have lots of notes/ideas/extracts jotted down in various notebooks across my flat. Often if I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea I'll type it quickly in my phone.

Working full time in quite a demanding job can make it hard to maintain proper focus on my writing projects. At the beginning of March I dropped a Monday at work for 12 weeks and the difference this has made already has been great. I'm treating my Mondays like a normal work day - getting up early but instead of rushing for my train, I switch on my computer and sit down and write. Even if I'm not entirely sure I have something I want to write about I force myself to let some words flow. It's been a big lesson in not waiting around for that elusive 'Muse' to strike, something which I have definitely been guilty of in the past.

And so now I pass the 'blog baton' on to two writer friends, Catherine and Charlotte, who will be blogging about their writing process on Monday 7th April. Here's a bit about them with a link to their sites so be sure to check them out next week!

I met Charlotte Bray a few years ago at the SAW writing conference. Here's a taster of what she likes to write about:

For as long as I can remember I've enjoyed writing stories. During my early years most featured my pet cat. 

In adult years, alongside my job as grant writer for charity, I've mainly focused on crime thriller novels especially involving interesting locations. 

The blog started as an excuse to tick off some of the activities I've wanted to do for years.

I've been following Catherine Noble's postings for a while now and enjoyed reading her story Wee Hammy in the Puffin Review (we appeared in the same issue)
Here's a bit about Catherine:

Catherine Noble is a fiction writer from Glasgow, Scotland. Shortlisted for the Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award 2012/13, she is currently working on her first novel. She is also a proud member of the Johnstone Writers Group. Catherine's website:

Monday, 24 March 2014

Another few 50 things...

It's been a while since I've posted about my '50 Things' list. I received my list of tasks at the end of March last year, and originally I thought I'd give myself a year to work my way through them (though there were no rules about a time frame when I signed up for the task). I'm going to extend the time , because the whole point of me signing up to it in the first place was to hopefully experience new things, maybe challenge myself a bit, and step outside my comfort zone. All of which I think I've achieved so far to some extent, and would like to continue working on.

I've obviously not dedicated a blog post to all of the tasks either, so here's a quick run down of some other things I've completed: (besides the ones I already blogged about, 10 Photos, Challenging my Creativity, Climbing a Mountain) -

~ Spend a night star gazing -  I had just visited the Observatory in Paisley a couple of weeks before the list came in so I guess I cheated a bit and ticked this off straight away. I think I should go back again sometime soon

 ~ Have a conversation with a stranger -I've attended quite a lot of events this year both at work and socially, and have probably managed to strike up a conversation with a stranger at each one. What tends to happen to me a lot is that we discover a mutual connection somewhere along the line. Strangers also often strike up conversation with me on public transport and in supermarket queues, so it makes a task like this farily easy to achieve.

~ Plan an overseas trip - since signing up for this list I've been to New York and Barcelona and am heading off to Paris in April

~ Do something spontaneous - All of the above trips turned out to be fairly spontaneous plans. As a whole, I think over the past several months I've been a lot more spontaneous than I usually am

~ Appreciate the small things - This was something I'd already been making a conscious effort to do in general and I think this gets easier the more of life you experience and you begin to realise what's really important.

~ Show your friends and family love and support - I hope this is something I've always done anyway, but it's always nice to have a reminder and I think even small gestures are important

~ Believe in yourself -What does that really mean? I think it's about having a strong enough sense of self that you can get to where you need to be, and even if you don't, then you can recognise that everything is still going to be okay. And I think it's about not being afraid of putting yourself out there - that last part is the challenge, but I'm getting better at it

~ Go to an art exhibition and talk to the artist - Last year I went to a celebration of a new artist's 1 year gallery anniversary and bought her art work. I find it's rare you get to speak to the artist at their exhibition, unless you're lucky enough to go to an opening night. I also emailed an artist whose work I had seen at the Lighthouse to let her know how much I enjoyed her exhibition.

~ Spend a morning people watching - I often go to cafes by myself and sit by the window watching the world go by. When I was completing my small stones task I became more conscious of watching people everywhere. It's amazing what you notice when you keep your eyes and ears open. Often I've been wondering, how much of the world do we miss because we're being told to focus on the wrong things?

~ Break your worst habit - This has to be snacking. I think I broke it for a couple of weeks last summer and then again after Christmas for a couple of weeks but it didn't last! Bad habits are hard to break...

~ Ask more questions -  I always ask lots of questions anyway. This is quite a vague one but I guess what I take from this is don't stop learning and reading and trying to find out about new things.

~ Write a list of 10 things you love about yourself - Not an easy task as we're so great in the West of Scotland at putting ourselves down. I'm not telling you what I wrote!!

~ Rid your life of the things you don't need - I'm gradually clearing out junk from my flat, I have no problem walking away from people who are only bringing negative things to my life, but I guess in a general sense I still hold on to far too many things I don't really need (like that bar of chocolate in the fridge...)

~ Watch the film 'The Edge of Heaven' - This relates to the task below as it was a foreign film, shot in Turkey and Germany.  I just watched this film today and I liked the element of interconnecting lives. It tackled some big issues of asylum seeking and freedom, but for me it didn't explore some characters enough.

~ Watch more foreign films - Recently I've watched 'Rust and Bone' and the Spanish film 'The Secret is in Their Eyes'. I enjoyed them both, particularly the Spanish one as a powerful a scene near the end really stuck in my head. Running through the film was the sense that the past had consumed and haunted many of the characters for years. I liked a quote from it, 'You'll have a thousand pasts and no future.' A warning to one character that he needed to stop letting his memories dominate his life. I really loved watching the French tv series 'The Returned' when it was on last year. There's something about listening to a story being told in a foreign language which makes the plot seem more philosophical and deep.

~ Embark on a creative project - I always have a couple of writing projects on the go, and I think I'm going to sign myself up to take part in the sketchbook project again this year. And putting together a Memory Book for a friend was a big creative project I completed too!

~ Give a friend a spontaneous gift - Thinking back over the past few months, I have achieved this a couple of times, without really consciously thinking about it

~ Set yourself 3 significant goals for the year - 1. Dedicate more time to writing 2. Send more work out 3. Don't sweat the small stuff  All on track, so far, with dips along the way

~ Go on a roadtrip - This depends on your definition of  a roadtrip. Can going on a trip somewhere in a car with friends, if you have snacks and fun, count as a roadtrip even if it's just to a writing event in Stirling for the day? All of my longer trips have involved trains and planes.

~ Try something off the menu you wouldn't usually order - At the weekend I tried Cranachan for dessert, not something I would usually go for. And I soon realised why...

~ Write a Dream Journal for a week - I'm not sure I've managed this for a full consistent week but I've certainly made an effort to record more dreams. I often have very detailed and vivid dreams, that play out like a long weird film, often leaving me feeling quite exhausted when I wake up.

~ Research Natural Phenomenons - I'm going to dedicate my next blog post around this as I came across a few interesting things, and it also sparked off a bit of creativity

Not a bad attempt so far I think. The ones I'm REALLY putting off are the baking/drink making related ones (they make up another 6 or 7 on the list), so I may enlist the help of friends for those. I am also going to have to really set aside the time to spend a day completely without technology and a day in complete silence (it would make sense to do those on the same day). Wish me luck!