About Me

My photo
I am an aspiring writer living and working in Hull. I working on a novel, as well as writing short stories to keep my writing skills fresh. I decided to start a writing blog to connect with other writers. So please, take a look around and leave some comments - I'd love to read some of your writing blogs too. Nari X

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Bag Books: Beyond Paper and Words

Our experience of reading is quite straightforward - we go into a bookshop or library, buy or borrow a book, find a comfortable chair and immerse ourselves in the world created by the words.

However, for many people, this experience is not easy or straightforward. For people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, the words read from a book alone mean little. For some, even the pictures hold no interest. So, should we write off books as an experience some of our fellows just can't have?

'The Captain's Hat'
I was made aware of a charity called Bag Books through an appeal on radio 4 back in May. Bag Books have a team of people creating a different kind of storybook for those who cannot enjoy a traditional book. The books themselves are unbound large pieces of card, each page with a different object that represents that part of the story. Specially trained storytellers read each page, whilst involving each person individually with the object. This can mean assisting someone to push a button, feel a texture or produce a sound.

Through this wonderful charity, children and adults with learning disabilities can experience the world of a story in a way that is engaging, fun, and encourages personal development.

The other day, I was reading a story to a client. The book had pictures, which she was quite interested in, though her eyesight hindered her a little. So I encouraged her to feel the textures of the pictures, used different tones to communicate the atmosphere of the story and made some of the sounds in the story. She loved getting involved with the story using her other senses. It's amazing how the way in which you present a story can have such a profound effect on how it is received.

This experience made me realise just how important people like Bag Books are. They provide awareness of the needs of those with learning disabilities whilst also providing for them and bringing alive the story telling world. Visit them at and see for yourself the wonderful work they do.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Foody Friday: Spicy Sweet Potato Soup

This soup is a good winter warmer, and a 'feel-better' soup that will kick the cold right out of you. Sweet potatoes contain beta carotene which is good for the immune system, and red pepper also contains vitamin C, well known for it's antioxidant qualities.

These quantities can be varied according to how much soup you want. I'm a big believer of making soup in bulk, then, once cooled, freezing it in portions for a quick, easy, late-home-from-work meal.  

Spicy Sweet Potato Soup

1 Red Pepper, sliced and seeded
1 Medium Sweet Potato, peeled and diced
Half a large onion (or 1 small one), finely chopped
Vegetable stock
Oil to fry
Chilli powder
Black pepper

1. Prepare the vegetables s directed.
2. Heat the oil in a big saucepan and fry the onions for about 3 minutes, then add the pepper. Fry for a further 4-5 minutes.
3. Add the diced potato to the pan and fry just for a couple of minutes while you make up the stock in a jug.
4. Remove the pan from the heat before adding the stock to the pan, to avoid spitting of hot, angry oil, burnt pans and fires. I speak from experience.
5. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a low heat and leave to simmer for 20-25 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent anything sticking to the bottom.
6. When the vegetables are tender, turn off the heat and leave to stand for a few minutes. Blend in a liquidiser until the soup is smoothe.
7. Season with pepper, chilli powder and paprika to taste, depending on how spicy you want it, then blend it again.
8. Transfer back into the saucepan and heat again for a few minutes before serving.
Best served with some nice crusty bread, or brie toast.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The Modern Rewrite

How cute is my dragon?

One of the most used exercises in creative writing classes is the modern rewrite - taking a classic story, myth or legend and rewriting it in a modern setting. We were given this as one of our first tasks at University, and I still have the half-written story I came up with. I wrote about Argus, the giant with a hundred eyes, as a modern-day security guard. With this sort of story there is naturally some level of humour in the principal, which I found by giving Argus a short, tubby, ordinary human partner. He offers charisma. And doughnuts.

Of course, there have been several rewrites and modern interpretations of old myths and fairytales in the film world recently; There was Red Riding Hood, Mirror Mirror and Snow White and The Huntsman, and Beastly.

I write about this because I am currently working on my Local Preacher Course unit assignment, which calls for us to write a parable of sorts, reviving the modern message that can be taken from a Bible passage.

We have also previously studied Narrative Sermons, which is one of my particular favourites. You take a story from the Bible, choose one of the characters (the least noticed or thought about the better) and rewrite the whole thing from their perspective. These go down really well in family and evening services.

Anyway, I digress slightly. One of the books on our reading list for Uni was 'the Seven Basic Plots' by Christopher Booker. Now a lot of people were outraged, even offended by the suggestion that most if not all stories written follow one of 7(ish) basic plots. Surely we are more original than that?
But we can't deny that most of our stories have a particular structure to them, and a lot of the tried-and-tested basic plots that work well crop up again and again. Detective novels do it quite shamelessly. 
Because the fact is that so much can be done within the basic structure, and if the basic structure works, why not use it? 
And this, I believe is why many of these classic stories keep rearing their heads - because they work. They capture storytelling at it's best. 

Do we need to keep updating these classic stories? Surely, they are classic for a reason, and work best in the setting in which they were first written. However, kept as they are, many modern-day readers/film watchers would not be able to relate or understand the true meaning or depth of the story. This, of course, is most prominent when talking about modernising parables. We modernise them to introduce the ideas, messages and lessons into the world in which we live, not one we only read about. It brings the story to life for us.

So, what do you think?

Monday, 27 August 2012

Hitting The Books

Many apologies for my two week absence. I have had a stressful week, but I' here now. 

As a writer, research is one of our most valuable tools. Our research informs what we write and provides essential materials for building the world of our stories. 
Unfortunately, I am terrible at it. 
I find that I'm much more likely to dive straight into a story, getting to know my characters a weaving yarn, which is lovely. Which is fine.
But I've reached a point now where I realise, particularly whilst writing a fantasy novel, the importance of research. It is what makes the world and its people believable. 
So I feel it is time to hit the local library and draw on its variety of resources. I have also been reading up on the books I own myself, stepping back and looking at story structure, world building and the shape of the plot.

The trouble is I'm struggling to know where to start. I want to read history books and look at customs and culture of different time periods, different countries, but I can't carry an entire shelf of books home with me. But, I keep telling myself, I need to be patient. Rome wasn't built in a day, and nor is a good novel. 

I have recently finished reading Patrick Rothfuss's 'The Wise Man's Fear', and I have now got half way through George R.R. Martin's 'A game of Thrones.' 
You can imagine how intimidated I am feeling. These books and series are epic - The Wise Man's Fear quite literally. The book weighs a tonne. 
I can't begin to imagine how much research and time went into those books. And it paid off. 

So. Stop whining, Nari, and get on with it. That, I believe, is what Patrick Rothfuss would say. 

Many people have recommended Stephen King's 'On Writing', So I might track it down to hep me out. Are there any other good books or research advice anyone can suggest? 

Friday, 10 August 2012

Foody Fridays: Grandma's Garlic Potatoes

I have attempted to recreate my Grandma’s famous potato side-dish, since I was unable to find a recipe in amongst all her cookbooks. It is really simple, and a good alternative to roast potatoes.

Garlic Potatoes

3 or 4 medium sized potatoes, peeled
300ml of vegetable stock
2 tablespoons margarine or butter
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
½ teaspoon rosemary or sage
Pepper to season


1.  Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/220°C.
2. Thinly slice the potatoes so they are roughly half a centimetre thick, then lay them out in a casserole/oven-proof dish. They should be slightly overlapping each other.
3. Make up the stock and pour it over the potatoes, making sure they are not swimming.
4. To make the garlic butter, mix together the margarine, garlic and rosemary, then drop several spoonfuls over the potatoes, so that it will cover them all when it melts.
5. Season with pepper to taste, then place high up in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until  most of the liquid is gone and the potatoes are starting to crisp on top.

 Please let me know what you think. Also, any feedback on the format or phrasing of the recipe would be appreciated. Thanks, and enjoy!

 Next Week: Spicy Sweet Potato Soup

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

A Modern Mystery...

Before I say a single word, I would like you to watch this trailer for the York Mystery Plays 2012. It says a lot and gives you a glimpse at just how powerful and breathtaking the experience is:

At the weekend, my parents visited us in Hull to celebrate their 29th wedding anniversary. A big congratulations to them both - let's all raise our proverbial glasses. I've learned so much about marriage from my parents and I owe them a lot.
To celebrate, they booked the four of us tickets to see the York Mystery Plays, which are particularly special this year because it is York's 800th Anniversary.
If I'm honest, when I'd first heard of it, I didn't really know what it was. So let me fill you in:

A Rich History

The Mystery Plays are part of a Medieval tradition in York. They began as 50 separate short plays, each telling a story from the Bible. They were performed annually in the open air by local craft guilds, each responsible for a different play. This tradition is recorded for two hundred years until the English Reformation suppressed the plays. 

But the plays live on with the tradition, and 50 plays have been made into one by writer Mike Kenney.

York Mystery Plays 2012, St Mary's Abbey--3
(c) Allan Harris

This year's production was a collaboration of the York Theatre Royal, The Riding Lights Theatre Company and the York Museums Trust. All involved can be very proud of what was achieved. 

The Setting

This year, the plays were brought into the Museum Gardens, and the stage was built in St Mary's Abbey, which provided a wonderful backdrop to the performance. On the main website, you can find a video of the stage being built, which is definitely worth a look. 
The stage was Open Air, which I think is one of the best ways to do theatre, and particulary this play, as it called for a natural setting.  My Drama-Graduate husband informs me that the stage was 'thrust', which means that there were audience on three sides of the stage. There were entrances all around the audience, as well as coming up from beneath the stage - very useful and powerful for the representation of Hell.

The Play
Saturday 4th August, Matinee

Before I get too technical, I want to say that this performance absolutely took my breath away. In spite of the weather, the cast carried the story with such passion and such skill. There was not a single moment, not even when the heavens opened and the director shuffled the cast backstage to procure some very trendy waterproof ponchos, when I was the least bit disappointed, disconnected or any less than 100% involved in the story being told. I could not stop thinking about it. There were so many theological points raised, simply by who was where at a certain moment, even by the simplest action of placing a hand on a shoulder. 

York Mystery Plays 2012 - Dress Rehearsal 01.08.2012  -10
(c) Allan Harris
As we were all fidgeting and getting comfortable, commenting on how sunny this side of the stage was and that we weren't sure if our faces could take 3 hours of direct and unrelenting sun, a man in a tan trenchcoat casually walked onto the stage and began writing excitedly in chalk. 
My first thought was a scientist on the verge of cracking a theory, a mathemetician working out the missing calculations, or an artist planning out some great design. 

It was, of course, a timeless God with an epic idea, working it out with as much excitement as all of the above. This portrayal of God made me smile right from the first second because it was just so fitting. 
Ferdinand Kingsley played the role of God and later, Jesus, and in that, they had cast incredibly well. He had the air of excitement, interest, love and humour, but also of deep hurt and anger, caused first by the rebellion of Satan and the angels, then by humanity, whom he had also created. 
He had the audience with him every step, and during the heavy rain, he had this smile on his face which made us all smile with him and laugh freely at the liberation in the image of him stood in the rain speaking of new life and being washed clean through his resurrection.

York Mystery Plays 2012 - Dress Rehearsal 01.08.2012  -16
(c) Allan Harris
Satan, also, was cast fantastically well. He was played by Graeme Hawley, most famously known for his role as John Stape in Coronation Street. He played the opportunist, silently watching and waiting. In almost every scene, he was lurking, just watching, or whispering in somebody's ear. 

There was an eerie presence to the character, and he would show up in places you weren't looking or expecting to find him. At the Fall of Man, he did not appear as a snake, or some other beastly representation of evil, but as a friendly looking gardener. 

He appeared constantly, handing out stones to the crowds before Jesus tells them it is not for them to judge, whispering into the ear of Herod's wife, placing a hand on the shoulder of Judas. All these subtle things carried huge theological weight, and there are so many debates I could get into. 
Whatever was the main focus of the play at any given point, I was always scouting for Satan, just to see what he was doing.

York Mystery Plays 2012 - Technical rehearsal -4
(c) Allan Harris

The angels gave an interesting modern take, not clad in white lace and silk with halos and wings, but wearing very brightly coloured outfits with wide skirts that span as they danced. They also formed the rainbow after the flood as Noah and his family sailed to safety. 

As I mentioned before, the weather was it's own character in this play as well. Open Air Theatre always runs the risk of rain, snow or thunderstorms, but I felt that the cast rode with the weather so beautifully. In the first half, our side of the audience got sunburnt, and then in the second half, a cloud rescued us. The cloud grew darker and darker with the story, and was a heavy, ominous grey as Jesus died on the cross. During the Harrowing of Hell, the heavens opened and it absolutely bucketed down. It was so appropriate; Jesus stood tall, arms outstretched saying 'Let my people go!' with the rain hammering down poignantly. I had shivers running down my spine when all the cages of hell fell to the floor and Satan retreated into the depths of Hell from the power of Jesus' command. 
The cast soldiered on through the rain, not even blinking or skipping a beat in their lines, but it was at the point where nobody could hear or see, so the director had to apologise and shuffle everyone off to dry off. The performance commenced after 5 minutes, by which time the rain had stopped. And not for a second was anything about the play ruined, if anything, the rain made it more powerful. 

The Writing

The language used in the script was very archaic, and worked almost in Rhyming couplets. In this sense, the whole thing felt like an epic poem, with cast and characters to get behind the words and bring them to life. It had an almost Shakespearean feel to it, which was appropriate given the history and tradition of the plays. 
I liked that Mike Kenny had stuck with this type of language, keeping the plays closer to the original texts. The delivery of the cast was so good that the writing sounded beautiful and natural, and wove the story together like a powerful thread. 

 I Recommend.

Needless to say, I highly recommend this play. At first, I was not sure what to expect, and I was so impressed by the experience I was given. The York Mystery Plays are running until the27th August 2012 - pay a visit to the Website and book your tickets now. You will love it.

I would like to say a big thank you to Allan Harris for letting me use his spectacular photos in this post. You can find more of his work at All images posted here belong to Allan Harris and are used with permission from him. 

Friday, 3 August 2012

Foody Friday: Broccoli Bake

As well as writing, I love to cook and invent things in the kitchen. Being a vegetarian, experimentation and an awareness of what is in my food is essential, and I have come to enjoy researching good sources of nutrition. If you know what you need, and what you like, creating tasty combinations can be really fun. I'm not saying it's effortless, but it really isn't that difficult to cook healthy, well-balanced and nutritional meals.
So I have decided that I will dedicate my Friday blogs to telling you all about my latest discoveries in the kitchen, including my own recipes and reports on other peoples'.

Today I have a recipe which I put together last week;
- This recipe has quite  high fat content, but is balanced with plenty of vitamins and nutrients.
- Broccoli contains not only plenty of iron, but vitamin C as well, which helps the body absorb iron.
- The walnuts provide omega 3, which is most commonly found in oily fish. It's good to know that there are other sources for us veggies!
- The cheese provides calcium and B12. B12 is very important for vegetarians, as it can only be found naturally in animal products, including milk, cheese and eggs.

Broccoli Bake

1 whole broccoli
1 whole camembert (250g)
35g walnuts, roughly chopped
25g frozen peas

1. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5/190°C.
2. Chop the broccoli into reasonably sized florets. Chop off the end of the stalk and discard, then slice the stalk into ½ cm thick slices.
3. Boil the stalk and peas and steam the florets over the same pan for about 5-10 minutes. (If you don’t have a steamer, bung it all in one, but the florets won’t need as long to boil.)
4. Chop 150g camembert into chunks, removing but keeping the rind.
5. Drain the vegetables and place them back into the pan. Over a low heat, stir in the chunks of camembert so that it melts and mixes in with the veg.
6. Stir in the chopped walnuts, keeping some aside for the top.
7. Season with salt and pepper if you wish, although I found the flavour of the cheese was strong enough to hold its own.
8. Transfer into an ovenproof dish. Chop up the leftover rind and sprinkle on top.
9. Slice the rest of the camembert, keeping the rind on, and place evenly over the top of the dish. Sprinkle the remaining walnuts over the top
10. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes and serve immediately.
Best served with potatoes, roast or boiled. I served it with Garlic Potatoes (aka Grandma’s potatoes), coming next week.

Try it out and let me know what you think. I'm always open to ideas and variations. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Review: Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

My Mum recommended this book to me, because it's related to my job, and she had liked the book so much herself. It did come with a warning, though. It will make you cry.
Suffice to say, it did. 

So, the story: a twenty-something girl, Louisa, lives a simple, small life in a small town. But when she loses her job at a cafe, everything starts to change. She starts working with Will, a quadriplegic who was the victim in a motorcycle accident. This is the story of what happens when their two worlds collide and how their relationship grows and develops. It becomes not only about making Will happy, but encouraging Louisa to break out of her small-life box and fulfill dreams she didn't even know she had.

I won't say I was instantly hooked, because I wasn't, and I won't say I instantly loved the main Character, Louisa, because I didn't. I don't know why exactly, but it took me a chapter or two to get into. But I soon couldn't put it down. When we met will, I think was when the book realy came alive for me. 

The book is so beautifully written, with humour, real human emotions and heartbreak. It speaks so well of human relationships and the struggles that Will and Louisa encounter in relating to each other to begin with. In a sense that is what makes my initial reaction to the book quite fitting, because I learned to love the characters as they learned to love each other.

What I loved about this book was it's ability to make me laugh and cry in the same breath, making strangers on the train peer round their newspapers conspicuously. JoJo Moyes has so beautifully woven a tale of heartache, juxtaposed with humour that serves the same purpose as a cup of tea and a rom-com after a difficult day. It helps you to cope with what you are reading, which I foud very thoughtful of JoJo. 
As well as laughing and crying like a madwoman on various illegal substances, I also found myself shouting at Louisa, at Will, even at minor characters towards the end. I would tap Rob on the shoulder, dragging him out of A Feast For Crows, and say, 'Rob, I'm very cross with Louisa. Why the hell is she doing that? She's just... What a.... Humph.' It was at this point I established that I couldn't tell him, because he just had to read this book. 

But you see, I like that. I like the fact that I was shouting at her, because it showed how into the story I was, how much I put myself in her situation and thought about what I would do. I also ended up resigning to the fact that maybe I would do the same as her.

There were some geeky moments in which I turned to Rob (getting an irritated sigh back) and told him about a small error in research, like the legalities of crushing tablets, or explaining that what Louisa should have done was park the car close to the pavement and get the wheelchair out on the tarmac. There was also one paragraph which started, 'the thing you have to understand about being a carer is...' and I had to read it out loud to Rob because it rang so true to both of us. Spending so much time with one person, tending to their needs, caring for them, putting all of your attention on them, means that their moods affect your moods. And perhaps that makes us unprofessional, or perhaps it shows just how deeply we care about a person.

I definitely recommend this book, it is very well written and grasps the whole spectrum of human emotion in one sitting. I was not brave enough (or fast enough) to read it in one sitting, though i think it would definitely benefit from it. In a sense, having the breaks that I did gave me time to calm down when I should have still been reeling for the next chapter. 

I think it has been good to read a book that deals with disability, as like I said previously, I have been wanting to try writing something that deals with disability, and I think I've learned a lot from how JoJo tackles the issue. 

Thanks Mum!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Hang on...

This is the second part of the blogfest; Hookers and Hangers. You can see my first post here.
Now I'm afraid my hangers (last lines) aren't as good as the others. I suppose this a good excercise because I haven't really thought about last lines much. Honestly, most of my chapter breaks have just come when I've thought, 'probably time for a new chapter', and this exercise has really made me think about where and how the chapters are ending. Here they are, anyway.

1. Ana looked up as he approached, and the Captain knew without hesitation that this was going to be the right decision.

2. ‘I think we should go back and find out why she’s here,’ said Visha. When Jonny hesitatd, she added, ‘I’ll race ya!’

3. ‘Do you know what they do with them up there?’ Jenna nodded grimly. Ben hesitated. ‘Does Visha?’

It has been fun taking part in this blogfest and reading through everyone's entries, so thank you to all who have taken part and commented on mine too. 
This has really made me think about the way I structure chapters, although that's just making me want to edit more.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Everyone loves a good hooker...

Today is the first day of the Blogfest: Hookers and Hangers hosted by Falling For Fiction, so I thought I would take part. 
The idea is to post as many first lines as you like from you WIP from each chapter. Here are my first five hookers from The Poison Maiden:

1. Her scream pierced through their ears like a banshee.

2. She heard them calling her name. They were coming for her.

3.The streets were heaving as the two children made their way back through the village.

4.The sun was creeping lower by the minute, so they hurried. 

5. Jonny dragged his feet as he moved away from Visha's door. The realisation was beginning to crystallise under his skin.

What do you think? Any advice?


Continuing the theme, I thought I would share a few of my favourite first lines from my favourite books.

- 'The horn sounded. Arlen paused in his work, looking up at the lavender wash of the dawn sky.' - The Painted Man, by Peter.V. Brett

- 'My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6 1973.' - The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold.

- 'Carlos Missirian was his name. One of his many names.
     Born in Cyprus.
     The man who was sat at the other end of the dining table, cutting into a thick red steak, was Valborg Svenneson. One of his many names.
     Born in Hell.' - Black, by Ted Dekker.

Does anyone have any other favourite first lines/paragraphs from books?

Thursday, 12 July 2012

That Editorial Itch...

In my last post I spoke about setting myself smaller goals and working on other things as well as my novel, nomatter how small. Well, this evening I have written a letter to Good Food Magazine, and I intend to post it tomorrow. I buy Good Food quite a lot these days, and I love to cook (and eat), so I thought, why not? Besides, the star letter prizes are quite extravagant. 
It's a small achievement, but for a while I have been wanting to write another letter to a magazine, considering how well my letter in Writers' Forum went down.
It might sound odd, but it has really helped me to reassess  my writing style and was really refreshing.
Having to get your point across in a way that is concise and yet captures your voice with a limited word count is a great way to focus and hone your words.
Believe it or not I found myself editing my 90-odd word letter, refining it until I was perfectly happy, and this I found really refreshing. 
I think I'm itching to edit my novel. It doesn't feel right not going back over everything every time I write and scrapping loads, refining each single scene. I feel dissatisfied with what I have written because I know it could be better. 
Ok, I'll come out with it. I'm considering a cheeky editorial session. Would anyone judge me horribly considering I said I would push on until I had a first draft?
Is there any such thing as a partial first draft?

Friday, 6 July 2012

Goals, Projects and Writing What You Know

Rob and I watching the Olympic Torch arrive in Hull

Excuse me while I blow the dust off this blog...Now there's an abstract concept.

I have been plodding along with The Poison Maiden and pondering over some smaller projects which might prove slightly more satisfying. You see, while novel writing is thorough and wonderful and at the end is a great achievement, that end seems a long way off just yet.

I was wondering why I seem so discontent in my writing recently, and it occurred to me that I have had no smaller or stepping stone achievements to work towards. My goal for my novel is a first draft. Great, but considering this is my first fantasy novel, that isn't quite as easy as just tapping it out. 
Perhaps a better way to work is to set smaller goals, even if just story points to reach, or story chapter breaks. At the moment i'm being really quite unstructured in my approach to writing. 
I also realised that I have nothing else I'm working on, other than my previous YA novel which is on hold for a while. So perhaps the reason I'm feeling discontent in my writing is because I have nowhere else to go with it when I struggle with PM. 
So I started to think of ideas for short stories, and the ideas I found myself having were mostly to do with work and what I deal with every day; disability. 
Thy say you should write what you know, so it seemed like a good place to start. I have worked with many clients who have brought me into their world and shown me a glimpse of their experience. 
I have started a few stories, based on thoughts I have had at work, things I've witnessed, things that have bothered me, things I have learned, and people I've met. The difficulty I'm faced with is writing what I know without writing specifically. It would be relatively easy to write a short story about someone i work with, or something that happened, but I can’t for too many reasons. Also, I think that would detract from the originality of the writing process.

The idea of writing what you know is to draw on your experiences, not to write an autobiography or a biography for someone you know. There is so much about human nature, about the sensory experience, independence and social interaction that I have learned through work, so much that I could draw upon. And yet, I am struggling. 
Disability is such a complex thing to convey, and as I said, I'm finding it difficult not to write specifically. 
Still, I shall keep working on the ideas i have had - at least it's something else to keep me busy if I'm fed up of PM, and it is another channel in which I can put my experiences at work.

Does anyone else find a similar problem in 'writing what you know', or more specifically, in writing about disability? Any advice?

Friday, 20 April 2012

A Life of Their Own

Hello all, and many apologies for my absence. I don't know what I've been doing. Service planning and assignments as well as working on The Poison Maiden, I suppose. All is going well.
I am now on 18,563 words, which is nowhere near what it should be. 

However, in terms of character development, I feel I am making progress - I seem to be learning more about the characters through dialogues and by gauging their reactions to certain situations. 
It's funny - I remember a time in my life, a while ago now, that I thought I knew everything there was to know about my main character, Visha. I would have sworn, at that time, that you could give me any situation to write her into and I would know exactly how she would react. 
Ah, the arrogance of youth. I was still in school then. I have learned otherwise since.

The fact is, a well-rounded enough character can surprise even the writer, because humans are erratic. If we, the writers, know anything about ourselves, it is that. Humans are largely upredictable, and a writer trying to force a character to do something that clearly doesn't fit is not going to come away with a decent story.

I think to Jostein Gaarder's Sophie's World, in which the characters are infuriated by their author's wishes for them. (Possible spoilers if you wish to read). As such, they try to divert his attention by doing outrageous things that he needs to tie up and explain while they slip away, out of the story. 
A wonderful read for those of you into philosophy, I highly recommend.

Now I'm not saying that our characters have a life of their own in quite such a sense (though I like the idea), but I do think our characters' unpredictable behaviour comes from somewhere in our subconscious. we store all sorts of information about human behaviour from our day to day experiences, and though we may not be able to bring these experiences or insights to mind on a conscious level, they are there, waiting to be discovered.

And I think writing taps into that and explores our human experience, which might otherwise be forgotten or ignored. What a wonderful privilege we have. 

Saturday, 18 February 2012

My Shiny New Toy

I did it - I bought a netbook. And I got a much better deal than I had anticipated - I got the last in the store, ex-display (so over half price) Sony Vaio, which is basically all the qualities, memory and hard drive space of an ordinary laptop, just really little, like a netbook. So I paid not a lot more for a proper laptop that's compact, which is the main thing I really wanted. Bonus.

I'm still getting used to the little keys, but I'll get there I'm sure. Now I feel as though I can take my writing anywhere, without llugging a massive rucksack with my cumbersome old machine and it's power cord as the battery is screwed with me. I can fit this in my handbag and take it on the bus. I can tuck it under my arm and pop over the road to the coffee house, or over the road to the local library.

Incidentally, that's what I'm doing right now. I've just tapped out 600 more words over lunch, and I've managed to begin a new thread of the story, which opens out a lot of things, ready to be explored. I know I'm being vague, but please forgive me. I'm protective.

Other news, I finally bought a paperback 'Wise Man's Fear' so that I can actually read the damn book without fear of breaking a first edition hardback. I'm such a geek. Mind you, it's not exactly the kind of book you can just pop in your handbag.

I have a question for you. I'm looking for some software to help me with my worldbuilding, which I know will be a fair commitment pricewise for a lot of them. Does anyone know of any good software that won't break the bank too much?

Sorry for being brief, but I think I need to leave. We're now on the third time through of Jonny Cash, and it's driving me a little bit crazy.
See you all soon.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Raw Talent vs. Editing

Is that a valid question? Not exactly a question, but you know what I mean. I've been thinking about my Nano novel, and Nano in general, and I know that the point of the thing is just to write, with the presupposition that you'd edit whatever you came out with afterwards. 
But I'm looking at what I have of this novel and my other Teen Fiction novel which, may I note, I have been working on for years. Comparatively, the older one is a million times better in terms of writing style, pace, voice and wording. I guess it wouldn't take a genius to work that much out, because obviously I have been working on  it for a lot longer than the Nano one. 

My point is due. I have several. I have put literally hundreds of layers of editing and rewriting into the older novel, and goodness knows how much time. I'd like to think I have really grown as a writer since I set out with that project, especially looking at the initial drafts of first chapters and comparing them to what I have now. 
However, I'm looking at what I've come out with for Nano (The Poison Maiden), and it makes me blush because it doesn't look good at all. I will, of course, add the word 'Yet' to the end of that sentence. 

But that's my point. Does it make one a bad writer if it's only in the editing that the writing becomes good?

The Netbook I have my eye on...

I've been thinking a lot about this, and while in my most pessimistic of states, I have thought that the amount of editing I have needed proves that to be the case. But I'm picking myself up on it, because actually, I don't quite believe that. While there are some writers out there with raw talent, who can whip something great up in a matter of minutes, I don't think even they would consider their work finished without at least a little tweaking. 
And I think it's all a matter of how you work; I used to take a lot of time over my first drafts, labouring over how each sentence sounded. I began to realise, though, that I was not getting very far this way. And actually, I enjoy the process of editing, going back to a piece of writing and reworking the words. 
So just because this Nano way of writing is entirely new to me, doesn't make it a bad thing. I think that if I keep on with it, resisting editing and getting the story and the world down, yes I will have a big task to edit through it and put all those layers of fine tooth combing, but actually, isn't that what it's all about? 

Writing isn't easy, well, good writing, that is. Good writing takes time, and lots and lots of revisiting. If I learned anything at Uni, I learned that. 

3. Put time into my work.

What do you think?