To Be a Good Writer…

Sage advice from the man himself –

To be a good writer, I believe that one has to read a lot of books. Fifty a year would be a good place to start, but twenty five would work... Stephen King.

I shall be putting this good advice into practice over the holiday season.

Merry Christmas everyone x

Is Space Really the Final Frontier? Weekend Musings…

Sitting on the train back from Manchester I let my mind wander. Is space really the final frontier? Perhaps, but I would argue there is one that lurks a lot closer to home. The confines by which we live, think, engage and converse are all set…by us. We have errected our own barriers, our own limits. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the way we work.

We have conditioned ourselves to be busy bees, always having somewhere to go, something to do. ‘I’m busy people’ we shout to anyone that will listen. But what if we stopped? Someone I admire once said if he saw me staring from the window he knew I was thinking. I may have just been thinking about what I’d like for tea, or when I needed to feed the dog, but the fact I’d given myself the head space meant I was already a step ahead. Giving yourself the freedom to ‘just be’ and let your mind do its thing can sometimes get lost in the drama of life. The ‘I’m too busy’ to think mantra perches on your shoulder and before you know it 💥 – another day gone.

So lovely people my advise for a rainy December day – ditch the ‘busy barrier’ and give yourself the time and space to think – you’ll be amazed at what happens!

As Fast As I Can…

No one said this writing lark was easy! Well, if they did they were either lying or delusional.

With lots of ‘life events’ consuming a large portion of 2018, my writing for the most part has taken a backseat. Yes, of course I have dabbled, I have written everyday but not ‘big’ writing. For ‘big’ writing I needed time and headspace, both of which have been in short supply this year.

From birthing puppies (I kid you not), to providing a taxi service for the kids, 2018 has added a few more ‘life lived’ chapters to my story.

With Autumn well and truly ensconced (what a fine word ensconced is), I am getting back into my groove and tap tap tapping away. Dark nights and dark mornings I love them!

Book 3 is back on my desk and I’m editing like crazy. It has been good to step away and come back to it. Amazing what you discover the third and fourth time around!

Now it’s a race to the finish – on your marks, get set… Go!

Movin on Up ~ Driving Your Story Forward

    We have all been there haven’t we? You are merrily munching your way through the first few chapters of a book that has sat on your TBR pile for a while and then it hits you…. boredom! Yep, mind numbing ‘I’d rather be anywhere but here’ boredom. Like a beautiful car which has been filled with the wrong fuel, the story splutters and then comes to a grinding halt. I have kicked myself so many times for playing the martyr and plowing through to the bitter end only to kick myself a bit more for even bothering to finish it. On reflection what a lot of these books had in common was simple – a soggy middle. At the beginning I’m intrigued, the writing is good and has me turning the pages with glee and then, somewhere, somehow, the tension is lost and the story becomes like a slow moving stream, no I correct myself more like a stagnant pond! Nothing is moving, the characters are not under any sort of pressure to do anything or see anyone, they are just… well they are just there! I don’t know about you but I don’t want ‘just there’ when I’m reading a novel, I can watch TV for that. I want empathy and commitment, as much from the characters as from myself. Commitment comes from making decisions, if nothing is happening no commitments are being made. All of this equals boredom for me, the reader. Don’t get me wrong I am not proposing that there should be twists and turns on every page but the story does need to move forward. Sadly this vacation I have read two such books.

     Sitting here in the Mallorcan sun (photos to follow), I am struck by how important and methodical the editing process needs to be. I don’t want my books to be considered boring and I definitely don’t want a soggy middle! I am the first to admit I write too many words sometimes. Which is why I need to be strong and robust (like a good cup of coffee) when it comes to editing my own work way before an editor gets sight of it.

    I’m sitting poolside trawling my way through the draft of my next novel and three things strike me:

    – Who the hell wrote this?

    – Oh, that’s rather good 

    – What a load of tosh!

    It’s the ‘what a load of tosh’ that is bothersome. These are the sections where I need to channel a high court judge and become harsh but fair! Sometime the ‘tosh’ can be salvaged, sometime not. If there is a meaningful reason for the words to be there I will play around with them. If, however, they are acting as fillers for the main act then they have to go. No ifs, no buts, they must be crossed through with a red pen never to be seen again.

    I have asked myself the same question over and over today – what would happen if the words weren’t there? If I can not defend them then they have to go !

    I am doing well arguing with myself, although the lure of the pool is proving powerful! One more chapter then time for a swim….

    The Music of Life…

    Picture the scene. I’m sitting drinking coffee (natch) in my favourite coffee house. The sun is shining, the birds are singing – all is good with the world, you get the picture. I am sitting outside, yes that’s right….. outside. For those unfamiliar with the British weather please read ‘ Brave woman, made of steel (and thermals)’.

    Sitting ‘al fresco’ is no mean feat in England in May. Maybe it should become an Olympic sport – ‘how long can you sit outside freezing your bits off.. athon’. The ‘athon’ is obligatory, I’m keeping it real! I would lose dreadfully at the ‘athon’ games, no staying power you see, my body is just not designed for it. Something to do with too many fast twitch fibres, anyway, I digress. Back to the sunshine, the birds etc. All is right with the world until…… man in car, sitting in traffic, windows down, bass up and (I have to say) looking a bit too smug for my liking.

    I was struck by two things simultaneously (the Hadron Collider is nothing compared to the speed my brain cells bomb towards each other) now, where was I?, ah yes, 2 things struck me. Firstly, I don’t like drum and bass (I know you are completely shocked, how can anyone not like drum and bass I hear you asking yourselves), secondly – OMG  I’m turning into old grumpy guts.  ‘Mrs Angry of Devon’ reared her head not because of this chaps very bad taste in music which, btw was exceptionally dreadful. No, it was the way his world had steamrollered mine. He was an unwelcome gatecrasher at a time when I had been transported to the magical world at my fingertips. I had wanted to own that time and the space. To have my head filled firmly with the narrative of the characters laid out before me.

    I had been happily sitting topping up my dangerously low levels of vitamin D. Cup in one hand, book in the other. Then…. bam or rather, boom boom boom. I sat, giving him the evils until the lights changed and off he speed. He had not even acknowledged my death stares. He had, in fact, been caught up in his own magical world. His words however, were louder on the outside than mine. Oh the irony. Both of us had been transported by the power of words but in such completely different ways and almost certainly to completely different places. This encounter unexpectedly reminded me of a truth I had carried with me when writing All Tomorrow’s Parties.  ‘Where words fail, music speaks’. Its a quote taken from an author who was instrumental in shaping my imagination ~ Hans Christian Anderson. Throughout my writing processes I often seek inspiration from music. It helps me sometimes to think in a different way. It helps me to create different structure and pace.

    So…To the man who shared his love of loud music in my world that sunny morning, I thank you. You reminded me of how inspiration has many forms, and usually comes when you least expect it. After my initial feelings of loathing subsided, I turned the other cheek and took a proverbial leaf from your book. I found my copy of Thumbelina and I too turned my music up loud…… I, however, chose to wear headphones!

    Ponder this thought, another classic from the great Hans Christian Anderson:

    ‘Life is like a beautiful melody, only the lyrics are muddled up’