About Me

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I've written stories ever since I could write, but somewhere along the way I seem to have lost the joy and natural desire to write for me. Churning out stories every other week for my degree course, and forcing non-existent brilliance out of myself has drained my natural spirit. So, I have created myself a blog in an attempt to find a way back to what made me fall in love with writing in the first place. Only you and I will discover if I fail or succeed...

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

In Which I Lie In My Bed

Ever heard the phrase, ‘you’ve made your bed, now you have to lie in it’? Well, that’s me right now. I may be sitting in front of my netbook, but in the bed I made I am definitely lying. You see, I am in the throes of dissertation rush. I am also in the throes of marketing madness at work where we are about to launch a new product.

Now, the bed I am talking about is very full.[1] There are numerous things standing in the way of writing a successful dissertation:
  • Pressure at work (unfortunately timed, but not my fault)
  • A friend’s wedding (not directly my fault, but kind of; Item 0.5)[2]
  • One day a week work experience (Item 1 in my bed)
  • A very poorly planned holiday (Item 2)
  • Procrastination (Items 3, 4, 5...)
These things take up much time and mean I have very little space in which to lie. The last thing standing in my way is the main reason for this post. I decided I could have the weekend off to relax, but, low and behold, everything else got in the way. Work crept up on days I wasn’t supposed to be working, family ensued... And now I am left with even fewer days to complete a first draft of a 3,000 word essay, which I have not even started.

So, unless you want to start falling asleep in front of the telly like your parents at eight o’clock like me, cut the procrastination, lock yourself away, and work, as I will have to do for the next six (non-consecutive) days I have free before my first draft is due.

Until next time. Adieu xx

[1] i.e. I am very busy, so it’s quite difficult to lie in it.
[2] The wedding is there anyway, the fact I chose to spend the whole week at home with all its family distractions counts for the half item.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

In Which I Start Work Experience

I dedicated last summer to finding work experience in London. I designated two months to staying in my flat in Kingston and looking for work experience in publishing. I thought it would be great. I’d spend two weeks at one house, then onto the next and the next. What really happened was I sat around moaning about the heat and finally got around to apply to one publishing house, which I never heard from again.

Then I spent the last five weeks of summer at my parents’ house fulfilling maid of honour duties for a friend and I forgot all about it. When my masters’ degree began the discussion of work placements arose. I took the information they gave us, but decided I should be concentrating on my studies and needn’t worry.[1] I would be too busy working and concentrating on getting a good grade was more important.[2] The fact I picked up a charity admin volunteer role one day a week didn’t seem to come into the same category.

Midway through the term I thought I’d have another bash and apply for experience in January.[3] I believe I actually managed two applications, one in London and one where my parents live. I heard nothing from the larger house and a kind rejection from the local press in Devon. I naturally assumed it was extremely difficult to find experience and I oughtn’t to even try.[4]

On rolled Christmas, out rolled the volunteering role and in rolled a paid role.[5] Another, more powerful, excuse to ignore the absent placement students at the beginning of the second semester. The summer, I told myself. There’ll be tons of free time in the summer.

Then came summer. And the dissertation. Another excuse. May trudged by. Then, as I looked towards my imminent trip to Australia[6] a future plagued with job rejection letters loomed. If I had no experience, I would be jobless forever! Out came the netbook and in went the cover letters. I worked hard at my letters, drawing out any tit-bits of advice I’d stored in my memories. I applied regularly, ignoring my secret fears that no one would take on a work experience applicant asking for one day a week.[7]

Then a friend recommended me to a website as a proof-reader. I nervously awaited a phone call and suddenly I was an editor. A from-home role using a few hours a week, but editor nonetheless. The next day, still high from my success I received a phone call from an unknown number. I tentatively answered.[8] My application had arrived on my caller’s desk just as his colleague had said she could really do with an extra hand in the rights department.

So now I have two lots of experience on the go. I persevered even though I thought it was futile. And then there was sheer luck. I guess the moral of this story is don’t give up.

Until next time. Ttfn xx

[1] The fact I was studying Publishing in joint honours with Creative Writing meant a work placement wasn’t a requirement of the course. Something I still feel ought to be altered.
[2] The ever striving school child inside me still wins out.
[3] Inter-semester breaks are the bomb.
[4] Yes, you are right to be shocked. But, alas, these are the thoughts of the lazy student.
[5] Roly poly roly poly, up up up soon to become roly poly roly poly crash bang whallop...
[6] My defining metaphorical line between student-hood and adulthood.
[7] Give or take; I was still writing a dissertation and working one day a week.
[8] I had also just moved and was still getting phone calls from various estate agents.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

In Which I Rush a Deadline

I’ve heard that deadlines are so called because the consequence of not meeting one meant death. It’s probably a false myth, but still a pertinent analogy.[1] Faced with impending doom what would you do? Fight and use every resource to prevent it? Well done; I applaud you. You are probably one of those types that have finished the assignment before it is set. Many of us do this ourselves; fear of failure usually does it for me.[2]

The other reaction is something you might call a state of inactivity or stalling. I like to call it ‘deer-stuck-in-the-headlights-syndrome’, or ‘hedgehogging’.[3] You probably know it; a deadline is looming, you want to avoid it so you pretend it doesn’t exist, then you open your diary to enter something fun and there it is; it pops out and points a gun at you and you’re paralyzed.[4] You have to think back and figure out how this happened: you were doing other work, then it was your mum’s birthday, and of course you had that lunch date and the party you’d booked months ago. You thought you had plenty of time, but each delay ate some of that time away.

I sympathise.[5] The exact thing happened to me last week. I was having fun deciding what to buy the boyfriend for his birthday when out of my diary jumped a sniper; one week until I hand in 5,000 words for review! 5,000 words? It normally takes me twelve weeks to write that much![6] I hadn’t done any research and no words had been written. Out came the plan of action: research for three days, write for three days, revise for one. And it was time for a lesson in cramming.

I had a few rules and I stuck to them:
1.       Do not work at home: it is full of food and TV and bed.[7] Libraries have far stronger work-inducing vibes
2.       Stick to the schedule: if you’re going to read a certain textbook on Wednesday, do it on Wednesday. Changing your mind and looking for new sources wastes precious time
3.       Bring lunch, or eat on the go. Some universities have areas within the library where you can work and eat (saves money too)
4.       Have a break. I know this may seem to contradict rule 3, but moving around stops you getting bored and losing attention. Plus, ordering and drinking a coffee takes a lot less time than a sit-down meal
5.       Don’t check the word count. I know this sounds strange, but it will only stress you out if you check it every five words.[8] Restrict yourself to once an hour, or twice a day if you can manage it

I followed my rules, more or less, and achieved, if not greatness, mediocrity of acceptable draft levels. I even surprised myself by writing 2,101 words on the last day even after resigning myself to submitting a few hundred less than required. I ended up with 5,426 words. The beginning is always tough, but persevere and you could be pleasantly surprised.

Until next time. Ttfn xx

[1] Feel free to find out.
[2] I will admit I do this often; I am one of those people. Sneer if you will, but this blog is not about unhindered success. What interest is victory if there is no struggle?
[3] I just made this word up, but it is fun to say: ‘hedgehogging’. Try it.
[4] Normally accompanied by some dialogue like this: “Holy cow*! It’s a week until my assignment/presentation/wedding is due and I’ve done nothing!” and then you hide under the covers and hope the deadline erases itself from your diary. *curses removed for thinner skinned readers
[5] And hope you sympathise with me too. Family events are so time consuming.
[6] There are 12 teaching weeks each semester at Kingston.
[7] All of which can be multitasked: watch TV whilst lying in bed scoffing a tub of Oreos.
[8] It’s really, really difficult too; believe me.

Monday, 23 May 2011

In Which the Dissertation Begins

Back in January I made my final choice of dissertation, a safe five months away. Last week I was assigned a supervisor and crashed into reality. I was busy completing assignments for 45 credits of my degree when an e-mail popped into my inbox welcoming me for a meeting with my supervisor and asking for a summary of my planned work.

If you don’t already know, Kingston University’s creative writing dissertation consists of a 15,000 piece of creative writing and a 3,000 word essay. I’m not saying I can’t write that much in 5 months (watch this space), but I hadn’t realised I’d need to plan the whole thing in advance. I’m one of those writers who find out the story as she goes along (with the exception of two cases, which are still under construction)[1]. Suddenly being faced with 15,000 words of planning gave me that cold-blooded shock of adrenaline I like to narrate as ‘dawning apprehension’.[2]

Out came the unloved ‘started’ folder in my writing collection and there ensued frantic searching for some story or idea that could turn itself into a 15,000 word gem. No luck there, so I turned to my university writing folders for half-fledged stories I could continue writing into a masterpiece. All the while trying to work on my current ‘Special Study’[3] and get it up to scratch so I can offer it as a potential continuation for my real dissertation.

Eventually, after much chocolate and stress[4] I rediscovered two more pieces of work to suggest to my supervisor. Cue a quick touch-up then the meeting. I brought with me my current work, last semester’s ‘it’s-not-so-good-but-I-might-as-well-bring-it-along’ pirate story and my five-year in the making baby.[5] Shock and horror, by best piece (the current story – for seven year-olds and about an imp) was least desired by my supervisor, author of a ‘lurid vision of environmental degradation’.[6]

My baby and the pirate story were the main contenders. We considered my baby, but I was immediately torn between shaping her into a mature adult and the fact I knew I’d have to rip her apart to do it.[7] So became the ‘not-so-good-but-might-as-well-bring-it-along’ pirate story the premise for my dissertation. Apparently even intelligent literary types enjoy a good romp.

So, you should bring that wild card, submit the one that doesn’t quite satisfy your inner critic, allow the imperfect or black horse through. You might just find your imperfection is someone else’s perfection.[8] All I’ve got to do now is give it a bit of intelligence...

Until next time. Adieu xx

[1] And may have been for, oh, about two to five years (one being two, the other five – I’m not that bad at math).
[2] Or ‘it dawned on her with apprehension’, depending on word count and style. Coincidentally, I believe the shot that filmmakers use to demonstrate this feeling is called a ‘vertigo shot’. Much loved in forest scenes.
[3] A non-dissertation dissertation that likes to pretend it’s a dissertation in third year (just by another name) and then rear itself as a double-weighted module in second semester at Master’s level, which is the exact same as the first semester’s regular double-weighted module but with a fancier name.
[4] And several stressful runs (trying to beat your personal best distance is effectively motivating, but also rather stressful when you fail).
[5] See footnote 1.
[6] According to the Financial Times.
[7] Even I was aware of the plot chasms, but like any mother – oblivious to fault or guilt.
[8] I’m not saying it’s perfect – far from, but it’s a metaphor so it’s allowed.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

In Which I Take a Trip to Earl's Court

The London Book Fair was in full stride last week as my train pulled into Earl’s Court station. After a brief panic when I realised I’d forgotten to print directions,[1] I found my way to Earl’s Court 1. My first thought was, it doesn’t look like you could fit a whole house in here.[2] But otherwise it was as I’d expected. At first.

I wandered around, scanning stands for How to Books Ltd, the publisher on which I’d decided to base my publishing assignment. After passing about fifty publishers I realised I needed some directions. Helpfully I chanced upon a huge map listing all publishers. I found the stand I was looking for, rather surprised at the size of the independent publisher and headed in that direction...and then headed right back. Had I looked at the map wrong? Double checking I’d got the directions I headed back towards the stand...[3]

Two more tries and I gave up for the mean time and looked around instead. I wandered through the entrance of the IPG’s stand. Sitting right in front of me was How to Books. The strangely large stand was actually a collection of smaller stands within the IPG. A few seconds pretending to examine catalogues and neighbouring publishers and I’d built up enough confidence to approach my first ever publisher.

What I thought was going to be ten minutes trying not to be too bothersome turned into a half hour fully fledged interview about the workings of How to Books. They were more helpful than I thought any publisher would be.[4] Then it was time for the first of many seminars in the Children’s Theatre.

Later on, a mix-up with the schedules and I had an hour and a half free to wander and explore. A few stands in and I was stopped in my tracks by Hachette. I don’t think I can call the sophisticated construction a stand. Which, by the way, had a second floor.[5] And that was only the first...

HarperCollins displayed their international presence with archways made out of enlarged bar codes saying ‘HarperCollins Canada’, ‘HarperCollins USA’ etc. Hungarian Szalay Publishing and Trading House had an archway made entirely out of books. Steve Brookes Publishing’s stand was every bit as mystical as its book The Land of Dragor. It was complete with crystal ball and real fume effusing cauldron, below.

Other highlights were Bloomsbury’s swanky-hotel-like reception desk, Walker Books’ logoed window and illustrated wall, Alligator’s ... alligator border, and a particular favourite of mine, The Noble Collection UK’s display filled entirely with Harry Potter memorabilia.

Finally, to end this particularly long post,[6] walking past Hay House’s stand saw me do a double take.[7] The fake grass floor, adorning leaves and spinning hearts made out of flowers didn’t do it. The life-size Easter Island-esque waterfall certainly had me intrigued.

Until next time. Au Revoir xx

[1] Quickly solved by the ‘exhibition centre’ signs. Oh, and the massive ‘London Book Fair’ banner staring over the station.
[2] This thought was propelled by a conversation I’d had with my mother two weeks before. It went something like: ‘I’m going to the London Book Fair. It’s in Earl’s Court,’ ‘It’s very big there – you know they fit whole houses inside at the home show.’
[3] Note: the stand numbers weren’t shown on the actual stand, hence why I could not be sure which stand I was looking for.
[4] But still just as intimidating to the novice publishing student.
[5] And a refreshments bar. Unfortunately, only for those taking part in meetings.
[6] For which I will not apologise, because the pretty pictures more than make up for the lengthy text.
[7] Literally – I walked along, glancing past the stand as I did all the others, stopped with my foot held in the air and looked back.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

I Which I ... Just Write

I had one week to write the first 1,000 words of a story and make them good enough to be scrutinised in an individual tutorial. Simple, no? Not quite. I already had the first 500 words – a short, problem-solution arc about a helpful imp – which I planned to expand into a novel.[1] But it was the expansion that was proving difficult. How could the lowly student writer turn a complete, enclosed short story into a novel? I knew where I wanted it to go – an exotic, far-off location – but how to get there when the initial plot movement had been completed? I ummed and ahhed. And blah-di-blahed. And then fell asleep.[2]

When I woke up, I lazily thought about my story in the semi-conscious haze of foggy dawn.[3] My thoughts collected themselves into a few coherent sentences and, said sentences jumping excitedly on my brain like children on Christmas Day morning, I had to jump up and type them out before they got lost in the abyss of abandoned thoughts waiting to be Re-cycled[4] into never-existence.

A little less than an hour later, 1,233 new words stared at me through my laptop screen.[5] Put it down to the blended colours of sleep and wakefulness if you’d like, but I think there was more shape and discipline to my achievement. During the hour at my laptop I wrote. Just wrote. No in-head or on-screen editing. I let in the boring bits, the grammatical mistakes, the bits that made no sense. I held back my usual tinkering with inadequate words, going back to add in new plot details, or going over and over[6] sticky dialogue.I charged through the story, letting it drive me. Yes, when I edited it three days later I cut 515 words, but I had something to work with. You can’t improve if there’s nothing to work on.

So, the moral of this story is, just write. Call it directed free-writing, ka[7], whatever you like: write.

Until next time. Ttfn xx

[1]The start of, anyway. A 5,000 word assignment is no place for a hobbit novel.
[2]It was night time, mind you. One does not simply walk into Mordor sleep.
[3]And in the knowledge that I didn’t have to get up early.
[4]A very imaginative movie. Weird and sad and thought-provoking, but good in an award-deserving way.
[5]After which I proceeded to do absolutely nothing at all for the rest of the day. And almost wished the ring words had never come to me.
Nb. You may have notice several ‘almost’ Lord of the Rings film references creeping into my footnotes. Yes, I watched the film three days ago. No, you shall not pass it off as poor editing; they are intentionally whimsical.
[6]And over and over and over.
[7]See Stephen King’s The Dark Tower septilogy, particularly Song of Susannah (the one where he writes himself into the story...no comment on that).

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

In Which I Get Back into the Flow

I must admit the holidays saw me meander about for ... a while.[1] But now that I’m back to my Creative Writing course I’m back in the game. It helps that this semester’s workshop tutor sets us targets each week; 500 words for 5-7 year-olds etc.[2] We had set writing for the first two week last semester, but this time around we’ve had to write rounded and full stories, even when they’re only 500 words. Helps with plotting, too.

Anyway, the main reason I’m so enthused with Nicky Browne is that she is so enthused. About everything. Her dynamic, crazy (in a lovable way) character gets me going. Every evening workshop leaves me wanting to run to my laptop and hammer out an exciting story, even after the busy day of work I have beforehand.[3] Without this person who seems so invigorated by writing I couldn’t get so excited at writing about an imp who likes to eat toenails. I even found myself writing for boys, which I never thought I could do.[4]

I turns out that I need something, or someone, exciting to get me excited. Bounce up and down, wave your hands, find out what enthuses you and then jump to the keyboard.[5] Let’s hope that my new-found vivre will stay for the long haul, though judging by the 1,200 words that emptied out of my head on Friday things are looking good.

Until next time. Cheery-bye xx

[1] As a student my Christmas holiday lasted until 30th January.
[2] And that she actually writes in my genre.
[3] So busy I can often be found snoozing on the bus on the way to the workshop.
[4] Think quails and snails and puppy dogs’ tails.
[5] Note my use of ‘to’. Jumping ‘on’ the keyboard will only spell trouble.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

In Which I Start a New Job

I haven’t been here in a while, but you will understand that Christmas slows everything down. Particularly if you happened to be stuck somewhere you did not want to be because of the snow. Fortunately I travelled home 1.5 days before my parents’ garden was hit with 6 inches of the fluffy white stuff, so Father Christmas got to me on time.

Physical presents aside, I was gifted an early Christmas gift in the form of a few e-mails and telephone calls. I applied for a job in PR and Marketing at an interesting firm called Reveal Media, which specialises in Body Worn Video Solutions. I did not know much about the company, but they had a small team unit and created something I thought was a very good idea[1] To my great pleasure and astonishment they called me back the same day I applied, while I was lunching with my boyfriend[2]

There were some questions about my CV and I thought: ‘woe is me, my CV is bad’, but when I mentioned I had written some press releases for a volunteering admin job I was put to the task for an audition. Away I fled to an available computer, chip-chipped at some research and swiftly returned an anxious article. I thought it would end there; why would someone like my work?[3] But, lo and behold, the very next day I received another call asking me to come in and meet the team next week. But, disaster! My train left at 12:20 on Friday – what was I to do?? I waited a tense and anxious while to see what the response would be...

Hallelujah! They promised not to look at anyone else, wished me a merry Christmas and invited me down after the New Year. I had my first, informal, day getting to know the company, the work and the people and now I wait to see what my fast approaching second day will bring.

So, I worked for free for a few months, travelling for hours[4] to helping charity and learning some office skills and now I have a paid job, using my writing, research and (hopefully) creative skills to market something I believe in. I can practice my writing and learn transferable skills that may launch me into publishing one day, but for the moment I can sit back, relax and panic.

Until next time. Ttfn. xx

[1] Most used by Police Officers I thought these cameras were a worthy cause and something I could feel passionate about.
[2]Literally astonished i.e. ‘filled with sudden wonder or amazement’.
[3] As many writers, I am frequently afflicted with that crippling self-doubt and self-effacement that materialises as soon as I have mustered the confidence to share my work.
[4] 1.5 to be precise.