Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Derbyshire Literature Festival - a good run of events this year

So, what have I been up to (apart from day-jobbery) for the last couple of weeks? Well, the Derbyshire Literature Festival has been on with events up and down the County for people to attend. At the previous Lit Fest two years ago I didn't go to anything; this time I went to four events - 3 of which were writing related.
Event number one was a morning on the basics of Japanese Bookbinding and I came away from that session with one medium and two small books that I'd made and enough enthusiasm to immediately head for a craft shop and get paper and card supplies to make some more for presents for people. I think they'd make nice photo albums so I'm going to try it out as a Father's Day gift and see how we go from there!

Event number two was a two hour 'Plot Your Novel' session with Louise Doughty (novelist and journalist). The most helpful aspect was when she got us to encapsulate our novels (completed or planned) by having us finish the sentance "This novel is about..." But we had to do it twice - once for plot and once for theme - which gave us a blurb by the end and was handy for determining whether there was enough of a story there. In the second half, Louise spoke about the problems she had with the structure of her latest novel (Whatever you love) and how she eventually sorted things out. It took over two years and she wrote numerous drafts, and from what I overhead at the event what most people took from that was that even published, successful authors don't hit the mark first time every time. Sometimes they fumble too. It was a good event.

Event number three was a presentation 'From Finland to Bagend' by members of the Ironville & Codnor Park Myth & Magic Tolkien Reading and Language Fellowship (all school children) whose love for Tolkien's work really came through in the hard work they put in to researching the place of The Hobbit as an integral part of Tolkien's mythology. (It's not all about The Lord of the Rings). It was great to see schoolchildren so engaged with reading and I just hope that more students get involved with the Fellowship. (And that more get involved with their public libraries as well and join reading groups and such.)

Event number four was a busy day in Bakewell (why, yes, there was pudding, now that you ask!) entitled 'Reading and Writing from the Archives with Sara Sheridan' and it was split into three parts. Part one was 'Ask the Archivist' and we had staff from the County Archive telling us about the resources that were available to the public at the Archive and online. They'd also brought along a broad sample of resources for us to look at and I found the County Asylum records of female patients from the 1800s fascinating. (Most of the conditions were mania or melancholia.)

Part two was the first of two talks by Sara - and this was about narrative drive - how to keep things jogging along and avoid boring your reader/ making them put your book down. One of the things that she said was that modern culture is more visual than in the past and so one of the things that *might* help is to storyboard your short story/ book to see whether there are any areas where nothing is happening. Then, obviously, you need to think whether nothing needs to happen (there is room for introspection and reflection in novels that you don't always have time for in visual media) or, is the lack of something going on and indication that you've missed something? That you need to ramp up your narrative drive and get the ball rolling again?

I think I will try this with a short story first and see how that goes. The reason being that, Sara read four pages from one of her books and then went through each board for the action points in those four pages and it came to 15 storyboard boxes! So I'll try it with the 32 page short story before I try it on the 400 page novel!

She also recommended Robert McKee's 'Story' for some useful hints on ramping up the narrative drive and if I can find the notebook with the chapter information in I'll add it here later.
Then we broke for lunch and Chum #1 and I headed off into the town for a pasty (Lamb & Rosemary for me, and Steak for her) before swinging by one of the Original Bakewell Pudding shops and picking up a couple of individual puddings and a large one. Yumm. I had a disturbing moment when I got back to the event and took the lid off my Latte to find that not only had the server put a Latte in my cup but a tea bag as well. It wasn't an unpleasant taste initially, just unusual, but it got progressively worse so I'm putting the initial 'Hmm, not bad' down to the novelty factor rather than it actually tasting ok. (Seriously kids, don't try that at home.)

Part three, Sara did her author talk and explained how her love of history and objects came into being; how she researches for her books and the glee experienced when you come across new documents no-one's looked at before. She read from her post-WWII mystery 'Brighton Belle' which I'm looking forward to reading (it's in the TBR pile but I have moved it to the top). She reads very well but I have to say the best reading she did on that day was of another writer's poem about being a writer. It highlighted why poetry is wonderful when read aloud by someone who really engages with the words and throws themselves into it. Again, as with the chapter in Robert McKee's 'Story', when I find the reference I wrote down I'll put it on here.

And that was the last event I went to. Well worth it; I had a lovely time this year and if there are any Literature Festivals in your County/ area then it's always worth having a look at the brochure and seeing if there's anyone you want to go and see/ listen to or any workshops you want to take part in.
Next stop, Theakston's Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate in July.

Not dead yet...

Did absence make the heart grow fonder?
Easter, a conference, a death in the family, a holiday, and day-jobbery work work work have all conspired to make Merry a very dull Hobbit. :-(

But I am back, hopefully with a little more frequency, now that day-jobbery is calming down a little more (although we'll be packing up a library for the summer and then unpacking it again later so it's not all ease and grapes on the veranda! Boo!)

How goes it all with you? Busy, busy or lying in a hammock under a sweet smelling tree whilst being fanned by a housedroid waving a huge feather fan?


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

It's alive! | aka the burgeoning outline

The outline is expanding scene by scene (jotted down 17 yesterday - didn't write them, just noted what they would be) and last night (just before bed which is always the way) I finally figured out why Niall would have been sent on such a detail on his own - it's a punishment for not playing well with others. So I can incorporate that into the scene list/ layout.

My outline this time has a mongrel pedigree - I've read bits from Alexandra Sokoloff's blog on the three act structure; Lynn Viehl's (Paperback Writer) blog posts on Quantum Writing (1 and 2) as well as other bits and pieces filtered from the intarweebs and am using those pointers to help build the skeleton. We shall see!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Revisions update - the road goes ever on and on...

Wonder of wonders I actually managed to carve out about 45 minutes for revisions over lunch today. If I'm writing fresh I can usually do about 800 words in that time. Revising, I had a net gain of about 350 words and advanced 8 pages. However, my chapter six is now my chapter 2 (and chapters 1-4 have vanished completely. When I start in the wrong place I really start in the wrong place.)

Thanks to stephanieburgis I came across a post on Terri Wyndling's blog about Creative Burn Out - something I could relate to as the past 6 weeks of day-jobbery have been unbelievably busy and really the slow down isn't likely to happen until the last week of November. We will strive to write and revise despite that, but if there aren't enough lunchbreaks (or lunchbreaks long enough) to acheive that during the week then it may have to be the weekends that bear the brunt of any creativity my tired brain can dredge up. (I think I also need to cut back on the coffee and up my intake of water and fruit juice instead.)

In other news, I have been sleeping well due to my autumn-cleaning tasks on Saturday which involved the washing and putting away of the summer curtains and the putting up of the winter curtains. (Velvet - Mormor picked them up from a charity shop for next to nothing.) They're lined so going to bed is very much like hibernating in a cave because even the street light can't get through, hard as its little orange glow may try. Of course, the downside is that when the alarm goes off at 06:00hrs it's still like being in a cave and no-one wants to get up. Early mornings are traumatic in our household. The beasts don't like late nights either and start pestering for the entire household to go to bed at 22:00hrs thank you, very much.

In other, other news, a screech owl has decided that now is the perfect time to fly around. Screeching. The last time we went out in the evening, about 20:30hrs, we actually got buzzed by it. The beasts ducked and so did I but I think that if I'd stayed upright I could have reached up and touched it, it was that close. Fantastic. And on the positive side at least it didn't screech whilst doing the fly-by. I think the beasts would have legged it if it had.

(Cross-posted from LiveJournal)

Monday, October 24, 2011

A book at Halloween...

So, Chum #1 and I have decided to give each other Halloween presents this year of books, following on from Neil Gaiman's suggestion (last year?) that this would be a good and different thing to do and I've seen other people round the blogosphere saying they'll be doing the same.
Chum #1 has gone for The Signalman by Charles Dickens (she already has M.R. James who'd have been her other choice) and I was lucky to get hold of the story as part of a collection of ghost tales by CD so it'll end up being a bonus! edition!
I've asked for The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. I've never read it but people have raved about it and when I went to the pictures to see Tinker, Tailor they had an advert on for the film so that brought it to the forefront of my mind.

As Halloween's on a school night we shall have to listen to/ watch the M.R. James stories on the Sunday night I think. James' work is very good for creeping yourself out in time for bed; nothing really dramatic happens but there's lots of rising tension and usually a very creepy end to the tale, but still, you feel okay about going to sleep. Then you wake up in the middle of the night and you need to traipse down the dark landing, past the dark stairs and suddenly you're 10 again, making the mad dash from one room to another so that whatever's lurking at the bottom of the stairs watching you won't catch you as you race past. If a story can do that then it's doing something right.

What would/ will your Halloween book be?

Friday, October 07, 2011

Work, work, work...

Of the day jobbe variety. It's been absolutely mad at the day jobbe which has resulted in a complete halt on the writing front for the past two weeks as my life has been work, home, dinner, bed - rinse & repeat. And even the weekends are not free from day jobbery so I'm looking forward to the end of the month when things dial back to a more reasonable pace!

How's life, the Universe and everything treating you today?

Edited to add: there is bathing and stuff in there too, y'know. I'm not a complete slob :-)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Metrics | YA UF

Okay, I've cut a few words here and there and added in enough to bring the word count back up to 93,415 which is +305 from the starting wordcount and that was in c. 30 minutes so not bad.More tonight.

Also, if you haven't seen Fright Night with Colin Farrell & David Tennant I heartily recommend it. I saw the 80s version a few weeks ago which was funny to see again, but the 2011 version is darker but still funny and I really enjoyed it. Go see!

19th September

I've started revisions on the YA urban (rural?) fantasy novel that's refusing to tell me its title and so far things are going well. I've cut out the first three chapters as being the wrong place to start and now it's more firmly in the action which is good. I did find, when making the revision notes, that there were a few scenes I need to write to make sense of things but so far I'm quietly confident and hoping that confidence will tide me over during the rough bits! I'll log how long it takes me to incorporate all the revision notes so that I have some idea +/- for future novels.

I'm also working on a couple of shorts in between as a way of breaking up the work and that seems to be going well, too so I'm pleased with that.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

August 18th 2011

Last week was pretty hectic brain wise with an intensive summer school that was brilliant but mentally exhausting. By the time we'd got home and frisbeed the collies we were too cream crackered to do more than a token effort at making tea and going to bed. Next time I'll follow it up with another week off to absorb/ recuperate from the high gear brain power!

Still going through the YA UF and marking up areas for excision/ insertion/ tweaking and I'm currently still on target for an end of the month finish for draft 2 all things being equal. I want to get the second draft done before the new term starts. The way my calendar's looking I'm going to have to book slots in to get some writing done, and perhaps that's not a bad thing, marking it out officially like that.