Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What is NaNoWriMo?

What is NaNoWriMo?

Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month’s time.

'National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. This approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.'

So why am I doing it?

I work well to deadlines. It forces you to get the full story down and not to edit. It also pushing you over that barrier when you lose the plot of the novel and just give up!

And today I have made a start and I'm feel good!

1st November current word count 2,375

Families, Ghosts and New Projects

I've had a very emotionally charged weekend. It was my little sisters wedding, she looked beautiful but even though its twelve years since my parents died I really felt their absence this weekend. I know my father would have been so proud to walk her down the aisle and my mother would have been in her element. We spent the rest of our time in the North visiting relatives. But I couldn't help grieving over the fact that my own children never met their grandparents on my side.

Before the trip home I visited Bolton Town Centre a favourite shopping haunt of me and my Mum. The first time I went to Bolton on my own I took my little sister to buy her a birthday present - a game she desperately wanted called 'Pig Pong'. It was something my parents thought was silly and a waste of money. However, my little sister had seen it on television and wanted it with a passion. I was fourteen and had my first job and I was so proud that I could buy it for her. It was strange walking around a town centre that seemed to have changed so little lost in thoughts of my past.

I wasn't able to write a word while I was away. I couldn't even focus on the rewrite of my non fiction book. This is very worrying as I'm going to have to write a lot of words tomorrow because the 1st of November and the start of NaNoWriMo - AKA write a novel in a month!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Confessions of a Portsmouth Book Fest 20 x 12 Reader

So after all the practice and work with the ReAuthoring Project it was my turn to give my 12 minute performance in Portsmouth City Library. I went through the exercises I learnt from Greg at the workshop while walking the dog this morning and I was feeling pretty good. I'd looked around the space earlier in the month and I'd decided to use the cafe. I thought people would already be sitting, some alone and most may be killing time. But when I got to the library a fellow 20 x 12 told me that a group of people were using the cafe to have an around the table discussion about politics. Crikey - I realised I didn't have a plan B.

The library staff were lovely, they had put out a table and one chair and wished me luck. They assured me I could use any part of the library, but there was no chairs to put out for an audience, what to do? I'd planned for time for a quick re read but instead I had to think fast. What would Greg do? There were lots of toddlers in the kids section, no good. The quiet area at the back? Of course no one would know you I was there. Then it hit me. Suppose I broke fire regulations and blocked the entrance and exit. People coming into the library and going out would be forced to stand for a few minutes. By this time other kind 20 x 12 authors who will be reading soon had popped along and we pulled some chairs out that would hopefully stop traffic. I do feel a little bad at putting the brakes on a passer by in a wheel chair, but when you need an audience what can you do?

I must admit I felt self conscious of being in my 'work' clothes but it was a case of nipping to Portsmouth in my lunch hour. No choice when you are self employed and looking for business? It helped and made me feel nervous having friendly faces in the audience. I decided to do it from memory and 'unaccustomed as I am to public speaking' lost my thread a little. Never the less I did it!

It was definitely a great experience. And now I am able to relax and enjoy the rest of the Portsmouth Book Fest without pressure.

After having my first go I would definitely do it completely different if I had to do it again. I think I would put up a few signs and maybe borrow the church's tea urn and offer free cups of tea in the quiet area at the back. Then maybe I could have jollied a few people along into being an audience. It would have worked so much better for the piece I was performing.

One thing for sure I don't think I would go back to traditional reading. And I'm much stronger after the experience.

I'd like to had a big thanks to all the people who came out to support me, I will be coming to see as many as I can.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Weald & Downland Open Air Museum

Searching for a peaceful oasis of calm, beautiful scenery and places to write in the autumn sun The Writers @ Lovedean had its last Write Out Day at Weald & Downland Open Air Museum. It rained. However, grey skies and damp trousers could not crumple a wonderful and informative trip. We had planned to separate, write and then regroup. That way we could have a little word tour of the buildings that inspired us. However, and I am tempted to gain credit for this, we were lucky enough to have a guided tour by curator Julian Bell. He pointed out things we would have easily missed. It was fascinating to see how these buildings have lovingly been rebuilt in the beauty of the South Downs. For me the highlight was the watermill. I have been fascinated by them since childhood. Maybe it was Windy Miller in Camberwick Green that started my love of flour mills, even those which use water instead of sails.

I think the group as a whole enjoyed Weald & Downland jewel in its crown the impressive Bayleaf House. It was certainly nice to be out soaking up the autumn colours.

I was hoping to get an idea for another poem to submit to Writing Hampshire. I would love to put Weald & Downland on the poetry map. However, I found myself taken up with ideas for the young adult book I'm planning to write in November. I think I might try and find time to sneak off and visit again alone. Despite having a wonderful time with a great set of writers I was itching for some writing time.

I would definitely recommend a visit :

Monday, October 15, 2012

Submitting to the Poetry Map

Inspired by Fridays workshop with Brian Evans-Jones I edited my poem dedicated to a council car park in Winchester and submitted it to:
Writing Hampshire - Mapping the County through Poetry

I think it is such a beautiful idea, a map of poems about what Hampshire means to the people who live, work, study, play or visit here.

It's worth checking out the site to see which areas have already been bagged although I don't think it would matter if two people wrote about the same place. All the pins represent where poems are written and they seem to cling to the motorway. A tad strange perhaps but seeing that I neglected all of Hampshire's beauty spots for a parking space, I feel unable to comment.

Then while I was on the site I stumbled on a writing competition:

'Celebrating Charlotte - A Writing Competition
Charlotte Mary Yonge was the best selling Victorian novelist who also named Eastleigh in Hampshire. She will be celebrated through a series of paving artworks and we are looking for writers to be involved.

You are invited to write a short story inspired by Charlotte or one of her novels - maybe one turns up when clearing a relative's house or perhaps you could imagine Charlotte teaching, or writing one of her books.

You could win a £50 Waterstones giftcard and have your story reproduced for countless readers to enjoy.

Stories should be a maximum of 1000 words.

Two prize categories: under 16 and 16+

Open to all - you don't have to be a Hampshire resident to enter

Entries should be sent to the Literature Development Officer, Hampshire County Council, Castle Avenue, Winchester, SO23 8UL

or to stating full name, address and date of birth.

Closing date: 12 December 2012'

Very interesting! I'm hoping that something will bubble subconsciously on this while I work.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Brian Evans-Jones visits The Writers @ Lovedean

Brian Evans-Jones Hampshire Poet Laureate 2012 came to give a workshop at The Writers @ Lovedean this morning. It was a truly awesome activity on 'poetry and place'. He asked us to think of five locations to write about and stressed that they didn't have to be natural beauty spots.

I choose Winchester Council Car Park. I don't mind driving but I do have a phobia of parking, in fact I don't think I do park, but merely abandon my car as close as possible to the location I want to visit. However, I don't mind circling Winchester's small short stay car park. It may be because it backs on to the Cathedral but I find it a small oasis of calm. I have never thought about immortalising this experience in the form of a poem until I met Brian.

Next we looked at how to make comparisons in our writing and learnt a little on how to structure the poems.

I've been a little apprehensive about this weeks session, mainly about the turn out of the group. I shouldn't have worried and I would like to thank all the members for a great show of numbers and support. I knew I needed to charge more for a speaker and since the workshop was about poetry, a term that strikes fear into most short story and novel writers, I worried that some would back out at the last minute. Oh me of little faith, how could I forget what a great group of people The Writers @ Lovedean are?

I think we collectively as a group were unsure what to expect. But Brian quietly guided us through the process of writing a poem. Lynne Stone a long term member said to me later, 'I'm would never describe myself as a poet, but I enjoyed the session. I managed to write something I was pleased with even though I was desperate to write the story behind the idea. And I understand more about how to approach poetry now.'

And I completely agreed with her sentiments. This workshop came at the right time for me after the discussion on poetry on Monday. I would definitely recommend Brian as a tutor, he listened carefully to our writing and gave excellent feedback. Best of all he let us know about the 'Writing Hampshire' Project. Writers can submit their poems to the Writing Hampshire website: http://www3. and (council money permitting) if your poem makes it on to the website it may be considered for the printed anthology.

Brian is also running some courses for National Novel Writing Month - NaNoWriMo in October and December at The Winchester Discovery Centre.

If you are interested in learning more you can find more details

Thursday, October 11, 2012

60+ Festival Portsmouth

Portsmouth City Council were running a 60+ festival during the first two weeks of October. On Wednesday 10th I ran a creative writing workshop focusing on the senses through the written word.

When I got to the central library I was unnerved to find that the library had no clue to the fact I was booked. I must admit to feeling anxious when I was wondering round from one member of staff to the other trying to find out where I was located. Luckily I was early and once I found a catalogue of events I eventually found my room.

Remembering The Hitch Hikers Guide of the Galaxy and Arthur's attempts to find building plans at his local council? I was sure no one would turn up and I was pleasantly surprised by ten 60+ people with pens and papers.

It was a great afternoon. Everyone was so enthusiastic about the exercises. When we had a tea break I insisted we all bring our cups back to the classroom and enjoyed a chat. In a group of ten seniors, four had spent most of their working lives abroad in places like Singapore and Australia.

I was leading an exercise challenging the way you interact with the world and I had a lesson to learn myself about first impressions. I certainly wouldn't have guessed the adventures these ladies had experienced if I I had bumped into them in the queue at Tesco's.

They were pleased with the improvements they had made to their fictional characters and I came away with a few ideas for new characters of my own. Definitely a win win situation.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tell me why I don't like editing?

Why do I hate editing? Because if you edit properly it's hard work. Yesterday I benefited from an editing session with some other talented writers. So I decided to look at my editing checklist and revamp it.

If I asked a non creative writer what editing is I would expect them to come up with the following list:

sentence structure
subject/verb agreement
consistent verb tense
word usage

Of course I look out for spelling mistakes and common errors but recently I found an article by William Faulkner. He pointed out that we teach ourselves through our own mistakes. People learn only by error, he wrote. However, it's not always easy to spot errors at first. We're too close to our own writing. We love what we write, especially directly after we write it.

Most of the writers I know that never finish a piece of writing are those obsessed with the quest for perfection. But why worry about perfection in your first or second draft? No one else expects your first attempt to be perfect. Why not enjoy the free writing of trying to capture your idea on the page?

Now once I have that all important first draft then it's the time to refine the plot and structure.

After I have removed all the typos and repetition I try to get more focused. Stephen King wrote a great book on creative writing and described adverbs as dandelions, I liked the idea of them being weeds because once you start using them you can't stop. Do a search for "ly" and edit as many adverbs as possible. The strongest, most powerful writing uses few adverbs because adverbs assist weak verbs. These should be replaced with stronger, more accurate verbs.

Characters should not "begin to" do things. Have them take direct action. Similarly instead of having characters to decide to do things, they should just do it. No 'after Jake had left she decided to check his phone.'

Cliches are hard to spot sometimes because they are ingrained into our culture. When you do find them take them out.

Next is dialogue, I have my own special dialogue checklist:

short sentences
use contractions
forgo pleasantries
compress your dialogue
edit dialogue to its essentials
don't overuse names.

I always have to remember to create a new paragraph when dialogue changes from one character to another. You can add the character's thoughts and actions after their dialogue without beginning a new paragraph.

One of my bad habits are the use of intensifiers. These are the words placed before adjectives and adverbs in an attempt to intensify an effect. Words such as very, so, quite, extremely, really, and absolutely. We're very tired. Thank you so much. The book was extremely good, etc. Removing them tends to improves sentences. Unfortunately I use them a lot in my speech so they overflow into my writing.

One of my pet hates in other peoples writing is 'it'. Be specific and name the "it" wherever possible.

Too many passive verbs slow down and weaken a narrative with wordiness—tighten and strengthen your sentences by naming who did what.

My passive verb checklist:

There are lots of other things that you need to look for. This list has been developed by listening to the criticism that I have received from others which I have then taken on board.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Red Pens and Poetry

An excellent morning. I met some fellow members for a Red Pen Posse in Waterlooville Library for some focused editing.

Now I like AND read poetry. I'm often amazed by how many poets never read it. Recently I've rediscovered my love of poetry after a David Swann lecture at Portsmouth Writing Hub and I often wish I could express myself in that way. If there is something wrong with a piece I can usually spot where it jars but I'm often at a loss how to rectify it.

Today I was lucky to be working with three poets (two of them have got an MA in Creative Writing). And in a few minutes I learnt a lot.

We discussed punctuation in poetry and how the end of the line can naturally provide that punctuation without the comma people feel the need to put there. I vaguely remembered terms like enjambment and of course Joyce Kilmer use of it in Trees. Not to mention Alexander Pope, An Essay on Men for a famous example of caesura from the far distant past. But it was only this morning that the penny dropped and it finally made sense.

Pace in poetry is influenced by the rhythm of the words of course BUT it is also influenced by the amount and kind of punctuation used.

The general rule: the more punctuation, the slower the poem will read. Punctuation is not the only factor influencing a reader’s pace, but it is an important influence. When punctuation occurs at the end of a line, it is called an end-stopped line. A run-on line, also known as an enjambment, occurs if there is no punctuation at the end of the line, or if the idea expressed in one line is continued on in the next.

Today I was really able to step back and focus on the punctuation. Enjambment definitely urges the reader to move to the next line without pausing.

A mark of punctuation that comes within the line itself is called a caesura. Caesuras cause the reader to pause or stop in the middle of a line. This is a way of providing a clear break in thought or slowing the pace of the poem. I've played around with this before and I've never been happy with the final result. For some reason today I realised the punctuation marks were all pauses in pace. It's strange when you finally 'get' a concept.

I received some great criticism on a story I'm working on for a complete different genre - adult fiction. And I discovered that a new member was hiding outstanding editing skills, she found something on nearly every other line. So I have decided to take an envelope with a cash gift in to my next Writers at Lovedean meeting at Friday with some work I want to self publish in the hope that I can bribe her to give it a bit of a going over with the red pen!

Afterwards we even had time for a coffee and a cake. So chilled and inspired I'm hoping to get 45 minutes to make the changes in my manuscript.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

RESILIENCE by Jessica Comley aged 10

My Mum, Charlotte, has asked me to be the first guest blogger for her blog. What I'm going to talk about is Resilience.

On Monday a few weeks ago in September, I was elected House Captain of Emeralds. In my school we are split into 4 groups, Emeralds, Sapphires, Rubies and Topaz. Since Year 1 I have tried out for various voted elections such as school council, green team and other school offices. In Year 6, this year, I tried out for School Council... I lost. It was one of my friends, Elisha. Then I tried for Eco Council I lost. It was a boy, called Harry. Then I tried out for House Captains. I won!

Each time I have tried out I have been desperate to win. I have tried lots of different campaign strategies such as making posters, leaflets, bookmarks and things. I have brought in sweets and cakes. I spent time thinking about my speeches and practicing them. There have been occasions where I have believed things haven't been fair such as last minute rule changes. I have had friends promise they will vote for me and then I have had to put up with the painful hurt of them then voting for someone else.

When I have lost I am bitterly disappointed and I have cried and been very sad. If you are serious about trying out for something and you are serious about success you have to care about winning more than anything.

I am writing this blog after having a chat to my Mum about the comments made by other grown up writers. I wrote the first draft of this while watching my Mum try out for The Pint Pot of Fire. The writers at Alton are the same as writers in Lovedean.

What is the point of sitting around and whining about how hard it is to get your book accepted by a publisher? If you grown up writers don't get picked you can publish the book yourself.

If a primary school child wants to be elected and isn't chosen, that's it! Why did I succeed? RESILIENCE!

You may also want to think about what happens if you moan at school about not being elected. You get told off by your teacher, your friends think you are a bad loser and the person who won feels smug that you are jealous. This then reduces your chance of winning the next election.

So remember only cry at home to your Mum and sister. Make sure people can't see jealousy on your face. And if you are serious about get published, be serious about it. Try your best and try again!


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pint Pot of Fire 3rd Place!

On Monday I entered a great storytelling contest called 'The Pint Pot of Fire' inspired of course by Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire. I was pleased that hubby and kids were determined to come a long to watch the activities. It was a truly memorable evening and not just because I ditched the jeans for a dress, which caused a moments panic with the sound man. Luckily I was wearing the fat knickers which claim to make you drop a dress size, they held the heavy battery without any problems. I was touched at how many people turned up from the writing group to offer support and in a way it added to the nerves.

A fellow member and extremely talent writer Margaret Jennings was hoping to read but I misread the rules and thought no paper was allowed. So bravely I memorised my story and went ahead. The stories must last as close as possible to 10 minutes. There are time penalties for finishing more than 15 seconds early or late. Unfortunately mine was 40 seconds too short and I had a 12.5 % penalty. Every one was issued with six little washers and they were able to vote which story they liked best by posting the washers into their favourites coloured pot, mine was green. I was pleased how well I did with the audience, coming in second with the public. Unfortunately I was hammered by the judges and came in fifth place with them. However, I'm incredibly grateful to judge Bryan Harrison who took the time to give me some words of encouragement after the votes came in. With the penalty I ended up coming 3rd place. So I feel I haven't let The Writers @ Lovedean down on our first visit.

The evening and web page is run by Elliott Manly, he seems a thoroughly nice chap. But I was concerned he was going to collapse during the evening. Like we say in the North ''I didn't like his colour!" I'm telling you that guy looked like he had a soaring temperature, but give him his due he never once faulted and was focused on making sure everything went smoothly.

What did strike me was how welcoming the volunteers were. From the nice sound guy; the lovely lady with the camera, the girls weighing the washers and people on the doors. Everyone was friendly offering words of encouragement and it did a lot to ease the nerves and make it a wonderful evening.

The competition was amazing, I'm so glad that I didn't go last year or I may not have had the guts to complete. I read second and my one regret is that I was so nervous I didn't manage to listen to John Taylor's story properly. Once I had done my turn I was able to kick back and enjoy the amazing talent on show.

Alison Moulden won with her excellent story, Deep Fried Mars Bars at the Jungle Food Café, but I was forced to check that she hadn't stolen the characters from our writer's group. The portrayal of an older person in the writing group penning sexy stories reminded our group of a certain member who writes should I say it....passion!

I definitely hope The Writers @ Lovedean return next year!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bag of nerves

I'm a bag of nerves today, and not just because we all overslept this morning. Today is the day of the Pint Pot of Fire. I have learnt my story, but I'm worried about timing. Pint Pot deducts marks for being too short or over running. I have to say that the idea of standing in front of an audience and telling them a story is a lot less frightening that tomorrow morning plan.

Hubby and I decided to give everything to the business this year and if things still don't look up in the New Year we will have to have a rethink. The part of the business we both loath is those dreaded sales calls. So my partner made a deal with himself, he would invest in his body and bodybuilding dreams as a reward for making those calls. It was an excellent plan, the gym is something he loves doing, it makes him feel better about himself, which in turn will give him more confidence to make those calls. And for a short while it worked well.

What's happened in reality? I'm stuck with the job of phoning prospect clients to invited them to a business lunch despite feeling pretty low down on the old mood and confidence scale. The resentment is of course back, because despite how crap I'm feeling if a job needs doing, I need to at least try. It's in my nature. And I think it's a character trait others don't like.

Rationally I think what is it I'm scared off? The worse thing that can happen is no one will come and no new business. Of course the real fear is making things worse. But selling like everything else is a skill. I'm concerned and worried because I haven't had much experience in this area. If I made the calls my technique would get better with practice and the fear WILL get smaller.

I've have made a sales plan, I've researched how to do it. Now it's just a matter of finding the right restaurant and picking up the phone tomorrow morning. I'm confident about our product and I know it's a great deal.

Hopefully this will get hubby in the mood to do some of the things on my dreaded job list, like formatting my non fiction book so I can self publish on kindle. Plus finishing a web page and helping me with an application letter. But if not, I'm sure I will work it out for myself.

Unfortunately, I have unsettling little thoughts. And I think this is what is the real reason for the anxiety. I have a long history of jumping in and helping or saving people. The problem is that it never ever works out in the long term. At first friends and family are always amazingly grateful that you stepped in. I have learnt to my cost that this will probably come back to bite me. Who was it that said 'no good turn goes unpunished?' I honestly don't why it turns sour, maybe by stepping in I'm not letting them get over their fear and then in turn feel better about themselves. But if the last few weeks have taught me anything, it's that no matter how good intentioned you were stepping in to and sorting out other people problems, even when they have asked or begged for help, doesn't end well.

And hubby hasn't asked me directly to make the calls, he's just procrastinated making them himself for the last five weeks. Then he's got moodier and moodier about it, because he knows he isn't sticking to the deal. And he's made everyone suffer for his feelings of guilt. He's a head in the sand kind of guy were I'm all for jumping out of frying pans kind of girl.

The real irony of this is that when we first started the business I wanted to turn take the horrid jobs. But hubby got all 'I want to do this myself and prove something' on me.

Never mind, by tomorrow evening the Pint Pot and sales calls will be over and I will be feeling the after effects but a whole lot less nervous! And if things do come back to bite me? Well, there's nothing I can do about it.

I need to think of the best outcome. There's a possibility of me having a Pint Pot on my mantelpiece and money in the account from new business.