Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Lets Get Going...Again!

Ok, so it’s been over a month since Christmas, and a lot of people still haven’t got back into their original writing routines. I know it’s difficult trying to maintain a routine over the holidays, so we let it lapse. Or, at least, I let it lapse. That’s right, you heard me correctly, I fell prey to the horrible beast known as procrastination. I’m usually really good at keeping up a working method, but recently I’ve only been working in drips and drabs, so please allow me to formally apologize to all my readers for my lack of motivation and lack of blog updates.

So here we are, back on track and ready to work. It’s the new year, but late in the month which means that most people have already given up their New Year’s resolutions, (they were too ambitious anyway). Promising to write 5000 words per day proving too difficult? Trying to write everyday only to be bombarded with chores? Well don’t panic, it happens to all of us, but now we must get going again. Get back into the work ethic that we recently lost, but how do we do that? It’s a tricky question, but one I’m sure a lot of people will have their own answer for.

Personally, I’m just gonna have to sit down and force myself to write something, anything, and get back into the literary flow. That’s the only way forward for the likes of me. Push through the hard bit and I will prevail. I will write my average word-count everyday, as I used to. 3 times a week I will end my day by posting my blog for you guys to read. I will edit my previous novel and send it to be published. These things I will do, because my motivation is that I want to. If you are losing the motivation to get started again, remember that you want to do it. For whatever reason, whether it’s because you like writing, or like having the goal of completing a novel, you want to write. So write.

Tell me what you think. What are your motivations for writing?
Read, follow, comment and enjoy. M x

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

First Favourites

One thing I think we all remember is our favourite childhood author. When we are first stepping out into the weird and wonderful world of magical text and discovering the potential of our own imaginations, we remember what books first grabbed our attentions enough to teach us to read. For me, it was Roald Dahl. His books have captured Children’s imaginations for decades, indeed even my niece and nephew have begun enjoying his works.

Something about his caricature characters appeals to almost all ages, from the nasty ‘Twits’ to the kind hearted ‘James’ with his giant peach. Somehow he keeps the stories light hearted and wholesome while indulging in the slightly darker side of most children’s imaginations. As I write this, I can think of two examples immediately:

‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’ and ‘Revolting Rhymes’

Who else could get away with writing a children’s story about a boy trying to poison his grandmother; or a book of poetry where the heroine skins the big bad wolf to wear as a coat, turns the three little pigs into luggage and keeps a handgun in her undies? This is the work of a very talented mind and it is such that grabbed my attention. Whoever our childhood favourite, we always remember them for whatever reason, and it’s that which we must cherish. I still curl up some nights with a cup of hot chocolate and ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’. We should make an effort to engage our children in a similar way, get them interested in reading the same way we were, with a good author, one who understood the mind of a child. I admit, if I were a few years younger, (quite a few) my favourite author may well have been J.K.Rowling, and that would have been fine, but I’m glad I got to spend so much time reading Mr Dahl’s books, and enjoyed the worlds he created.

What was your favourite author as a child? Do you think children engage in reading as often as they used to? Tell me what you think. Read, follow, comment and enjoy. M x

Monday, 6 January 2014

Help Yourself

So it’s the New Year and everyone has made their resolutions, well, except me. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore because I can never stick to them. Some people may say that’s the point, that its tradition to make and break resolutions. But I’m getting slightly off topic here; fact is, this time of year, fiction sales figures take a hit. Yes some people will go out and buy that novel they’ve been promising themselves as part of their resolution, but most people will buy self-help books.

Now, before anyone starts thinking I’m having a go at self-help books, I’m not. I can give credit to two books that have helped me when I needed it. But fact is fiction isn’t as sort after. People everywhere want to change something about them-selves and it’s normally to do with their health. Quit smoking and lose weight are the top of the list, so books on these subjects walk out of the door and the money directly into the pockets of those cashing in. I will mention one book here, simply because I know it works from personal experience, and that is ‘Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking’. No, that’s not Allen Carr the comedian and the only reason I mention this book is because it is the exception and not the rule.

Why do we drain our finances dry at Christmas only to do so again for one off fads like ‘Get thin by eating dust’ or ‘Lose weight by vomiting’ (these are just made up, obviously), when the book usually gets half-read, then chucked to the bottom of the book case, where during spring it gets taken to the local charity shop? It’s a complete waste of money. Why not instead, get a book that you know you’ll enjoy, a bestselling novel, that wonderful romance, or chilling thriller. The one you know you’ll finish because you won’t be able to put it down? Isn’t that a better use of your cash? That way the novel industry wouldn’t dwindle during the cold months and everyone would feel happier than if they’ve failed the latest dieting fashion.

Maybe I’m, just being pessimistic, it may work for a lot of people, but if it does, it’s doesn’t for any people I know. Let me know what you think. Read, follow, comment and enjoy. M x

Monday, 23 December 2013

Seasons Scribbles

Does anybody else get the urge to write something seasonal this time of year? Whether it’s a child’s story involving Santa Clause, or a Thriller set during the crisp white winters of Ole’ London Town, thousands of people feel compelled to write during this magical time. Now I’m not normally one to go all gooey and sentimental over national holidays, but this close to Christmas it’s hard not to. I love Christmas and I’m not ashamed to say it. My favourite bit is the smell of the roast wafting through into the living room while we watch something tacky on the telly, usually from Disney.

But when writing about the season’s holidays, whether it is Christmas, Yule, Hanukah etc... this time of year always brings about some of the most imaginative tales. Some of the most memorable fictions are based around Christmas. Look at Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol. How many times has that been re-imagined? The cynics among us would say that the producers are trying to cash in on a great idea, and they’re probably right, but that doesn’t mean we like it any less.

There are so many stories to choose from.
‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ by Dr. Seuss
‘The Night before Christmas’ by Clement Clarke Moore
‘Polar Express’ by Chris van Allsburg
‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ by C.S.Lewis and
‘The Nutcracker’ by E.T.A Hoffmann are just a few of the sublime narratives developed specifically for this time of year.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I love writing about Christmas, just trying to convey my own personal feelings from the holidays onto paper is a joy. As with every Christmas, because it is a guilty pleasure of mine, I shall be joining Ebenezer Scrooge in his bedroom for a night of yuletide haunting. I look forward to it every year, but what is your favourite Christmas Book? What’s your favourite bit about Christmas, or Yule, or Hanukah? Let me know what you think.

Read, Follow, Comment and Enjoy a very Merry Christmas. M x

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Worrisome Word Count

There a few different ways to measure the length of your novel as you write it, the most common way is word count. I know some authors who count the amount of pages, which is ridiculous considering the format changes when published. But word-count is what a lot of publishers rely on, and it can affect the final decision whether or not too publish.
‘Is it too long?’
‘Is it too short?

Crime novels are usually shorter, where as fantasies tend to be longer. The main problem is, what is the ideal length for a novel? There is no straight answer.

If you are a first time author, publishers don’t really want to print a book longer than 110,000 words. Any longer than that and it could get costly. If you already have a good sales record behind you, then they may be ok with extending the word count, but only because they have evidence that your books will sell. Look at the Harry Potter series for example; The Philosopher's Stone was 76,944 words, but The Deathly Hallows was approximately 198,227, with Order of The Phoenix reaching over 250,000 words. When the success of the first books was apparent, the publisher knew they could make their money even with novels of a much larger size. 

The main worry is, that although you may want your book to be longer or shorter, don’t worry about it until you come to editing it. My first book was 110,000 at its first draft. By the time I finished editing, it was 95,000 words. A very decent size for anyone’s first time novel and still acceptable in length for most publishers. I have a novel however that I have not yet edited, and it is 65,000 words in length. I know there are to be quite a few changes, a little cut out and a lot added in, but I’m not thinking about it until I have finished writing my current one which is set to finish at 75,000 words. This is only the first draft and the content, I’m sure will change dramatically.

The point to this blog is to calm everyone down about the ‘word-count’ obsession. Just write the book the way you want to. The first draft is yours; the rest is to make it marketable, to make it ‘reader friendly’. Tell me what you think. Read, follow, comment and enjoy. M x

Monday, 16 December 2013

50 Must Reads

My bookmark is a thin piece of stainless steel, engraved with ’50 books to read before you die.’ I will list the books on here in the order they are listed, and see how many you’ve read. I am ashamed to say, that although I enjoy classic novels, I have only read about 5% of them. I won’t tell you which ones, you can have a guess. But see if you agree with the list, or if you have some books you would recommend?
1984                                                    -              GEORGE ORWELL
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE                   -             JANE AUSTEN
THE GRAPES OF WRATH                -              JOHN STEINBECK
TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD              -              HARPER LEE
JANE EYRE                                           -              CHARLOTTE BRONTE
WUTHERING HEIGHTS                   -              EMILY BRONTE
A PASSAGE TO INDIA                     -              E.M.FORSTER
THE LORD OF THE FLIES                  -              WILLIAM GOLDING
HAMLET                                               -              WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
A BEND IN THE RIVER                     -              V.S.NAIPAUL
THE GREAT GATSBY                         -              F. SCOTT FITZGERALD
THE CATCHER IN THE RYE              -              J.D.SALINGER
THE BELL JAR                                      -              SYLVIA PLATH
BRAVE NEW WORLD                       -              ALDOUS HUXLEY
DIARY OF ANNE FRANK                 -              ANNE FRANK
DON QUIXOTE                                   -              MIGUEL DE CERVANTES
THE BIBLE                                            -              VARIOUS
THE CANTERBURY TALES               -              GEOFFREY CHAUCER
ULYSSES                                               -              JAMES JOYCE
THE QUIET AMERICAN                   -              GRAHAM GREENE
BIRDSONG                                          -              SEBASTIAN FAULKS
MONEY                                             -              MARTIN AMIS
HARRY POTTER SERIES                    -              J.K.ROWLING
MOBY DICK                                         -              HERMAN MELVILLE
ANNA KARENINA                             -              LEO TOLSTOY
REBECCA                                              -              DAPHNE DU MAURIER
ON THE ROAD                                    -              JACK KEROUAC
HEART OF DARKNESS                     -              JOSEPH CONRAD
THE WAY WE LIVE NOW                -              ANTHONY TROLLOPE
THE OUTSIDER                                   -              ALBERT CAMUS
THE COLOUR PURPLE                     -              ALICE WALKER
LIFE OF PI                                            -              YANN MARTEL
FRANKENSTEIN                                 -              MARY SHELLEY
THE WAR OF THE WORLDS           -              H.G.WELLS
MEN WITHOUT WOMEN              -              ERNEST HEMINGWAY
GULLIVER’S TRAVELS                      -              JONATHAN SWIFT
A CHRISTMAS CAROL                     -              CHARLES DICKENS
HUCKLEBERRY FINN                        -              MARK TWAIN
ROBINSON CRUSOE                        -              DANIEL DEFOE
CATCH 22                                             -           JOSEPH HELLER
MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA                  -              ARTHUR GOLDEN
THE DIVINE COMEDY                      -           ALIGHIERI DANTE

So how many have you read? How many are you intending to read? Are there any surprises? Or possibly books you have read but thought, ‘there’s no way that should be in this list.’ Please remember that this is not the ‘top 50 books of all time’ but the ‘50 books to read before you die.’
These are books that demand your attention. It may be just a gimmicky bookmark that served me well, but I am going to start at the top and work my way down. Until I get to my favourite book of all time.
The picture of Dorian Gray.
But one thing that surprised me was the mention of the Bible. These are books you must read before you die, but the Bible is a religious text, so should it be on the list? I know there are going to be some people who will state unequivocally, ‘YES’, but in that case, should we not also include religious texts from other faiths in the list? That’s just my thought, what’s yours?

Read, follow, comment and enjoy. M x

Friday, 13 December 2013

Family Fiction

I wrote recently discussing hobbies and whether to include them in your novel. What about families? Obviously, most characters have families, and some stories require stronger family types than others. But have you ever written a novel where the characters or character’s families are based on your own? I know this is a dangerous concept, because what if someone from your own family decides to read your novel and recognises where you got that character type from? Will they be flattered that you’ve included them (to a degree) in your work, or would they be insulted that you see them in a way that is unfavourable to them?

E.G. imagine you have a sister who loves a particular movie star, or singer, and it’s all they talk about. And in your novel you talk about a girl who is obsessed with someone in particular, if you’re drawing your inspiration from that sister, isn’t it likewise that you may end basing some of the dialogue on what they say? Isn’t it obvious that they may think you are mocking them? It may upset her, obviously that’s not what you’re trying to do, but it may be the end result.

On the flipside though, what happens when you make up a fictional character, completely made-up, you haven’t based it on anyone because the character in your mind is unique, but someone you know, thinks you are basing it on them. You create a clown type character that is stupid and silly and clumsy and an idiot simply for the point of the story, when a friend of yours who you’ve asked to reads the story for feedback, gets upset because they think you are mocking them. What do you do? Do you rewrite the character because your friend is upset, or do you just keep it the way it is, because you know it isn’t based on anyone and your friend needs to accept that?

Thing is you can never satisfy everyone. Someone somewhere is going to connect with your creations, for good or worse, and if you start changing your novel because of that, then you are never going to be happy with it. Do what’s right for your novel, and if you do base a character on a real person, then good luck, or don’t tell anyone.

Read, follow, comment and enjoy. M x