Critique Follows Writing

While I was at university we did a lot of sharing our creative work with other people. Some people get used to it and others don’t but critiquing someone’s original work can be daunting, especially in the beginning.

It’s important to find a balance between honesty, a supportive attitude and constructive comments when you’re looking at a piece of work that somebody is aiming to improve or share with a wider audience once you’ve seen it.

I’m lucky that some of my friends still share their work with me when they want a new opinion. One particular friend asked me the other day if I’d take a look at a piece of creative work that she was doing for an assignment. Of course I was happy to say that I would read it and offer any comments if I could.

I do a couple of things when I’m critiquing.

First of all, I read through the entire story without making a single comment. I don’t want to be thinking about the use of grammar while I should be gasping at a dramatic plot twist. Getting a good overview means that I can focus on the smaller details without getting too distracted.

Secondly, I look at the grammar. Usually this involves reading the story quickly, or skimming, so that my eyes will pause on anything that doesn’t look quite right. This technique can take a little bit of practice if you don’t read a lot or on a regular basis. In my experience, another way of catching sentences that need a bit of help is to read the story out loud. I did this a lot at university, especially with my own work, because if a sentence doesn’t sound right as you say it then it won’t look right either.

Thirdly, I’ve been known to highlight sentences that I like, or rarely dislike, and point them out to the author. The story has to look right line by line but it also has to flow as a cohesive piece. One sentence can really change a piece of writing but this isn’t a step I’ll always feel the need to take in my critiquing. Although I have also highlighted an entire, excellent paragraph before just because I loved it. This is also, if needed, when I look at any content in the story that doesn’t fit.

Finally, leave a comment at the end of the story. I like to leave my critique on a positive note because an author should be helped to improve but I think that they should also be encouraged and told when they are doing well. You should always, always be honest in your final comment. Whether or not you personally liked the piece, explain your reasoning and if they mentioned any part that they wanted you to look at in particular then you should address that directly. Writing a final comment is often my attempt to sum up what I thought of the story overall.

I find it a great privilege to be asked to look at someone’s unfinished work and I’m glad when a comment I have made might help.

Ten Books for National Book Lover’s Day

It turns out that today is national book lover’s day so, I thought I’d share ten of the books that I have fallen in love with over the years. #BookLoversDay

1. Temeraire by Naomi Novik

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Also called ‘His Majesty’s Dragon’ I have this book on kindle and in paperback. I love this book and although I was interested from the moment I read the blurb I didn’t expect to tumble head over heels for Naomi Novik’s alternative history. It was a lovely surprise.

As the main character Laurence tries to accept that his life has completely changed I had no problem following him and Temeraire because the writing was so smooth and even though there are a couple of moments which make me sad I’ve read Temeraire at least five times since the first time which, according to my Goodreads profile, was two years ago from yesterday.

Blurb:

Captain Will Laurence has been at sea since he was just twelve years old; finding a warmer berth in Nelson’s navy than any he enjoyed as the youngest, least important son of Lord Allendale. Rising on merit to captain his own vessel, Laurence has earned himself a beautiful fiancée, society’s esteem and a golden future. But the war is not going well. It seems Britain can only wait as Napoleon plans to overrun her shores.

After a skirmish with a French ship, Laurence finds himself in charge of a rare cargo: a dragon egg bound for the Emperor himself. Dragons are much prized: properly trained, they can mount a fearsome attack from the skies. One of Laurence’s men must take the beast in hand and join the aviators’ cause, thus relinquishing all hope of a normal life.

But when the newly-hatched dragon ignores the young midshipman Laurence chose as its keeper and decides to imprint itself on the horrified captain instead, Laurence’s world falls apart. Gone is his golden future: gone his social standing, and soon his beautiful fiancée, as he is consigned to be the constant companion and trainer of the fighting dragon Temeraire…

 

2. Oracle’s Moon by Thea Harrison

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As the fourth book in Thea Harrison’s ‘Elder Races’ series it’s my favourite mostly because I admire the character Grace so much. Plus, Khalil is wonderful because he wants new experiences even if he risks being unsure or fumbling while he learns. The story itself is fascinating to me but it really is the characters who keep drawing me back.

Blurb:

In the latest Novel of the Elder Races, an untested young woman must claim her place as the Oracle – and contend with a powerful Djinn who has decided to become a part of her life . . .

As a second daughter, Grace Andreas never had to worry about the intrigues of the Elder Races. But when her sister, Petra, and her husband are both killed, Grace inherits the Power and responsibilities of the Oracle of Louisville, as well as her sister’s two young children – neither of which she is prepared for.

Yet, she is not alone. Khalil, Demonkind and Djinn Prince of House Marid – driven by his genuine caring for the children – has decided to make himself a part of the household, both as their guardian and as an exasperating counterpoint to Grace’s impudence towards the Elder Races. But when an attempt is made on Grace’s life, she realises that Khalil is the only one can protect her – and offer her more than any mortal man . . .

 

3. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

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I read this book for the first time earlier this year. Despite my love for fantasy books and my admiration for them as accomplished writers it was actually the first book I’d read by Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman. It definitely wasn’t the last I’m working my way through as many books by those two authors as possible and I’ve got a lot to look forward too.

In Good Omens there were a lot of characters to follow as the end of the world loomed on the horizon but I liked the way that you had to see the individuals before you could see the bigger picture. I think that it is an excellent book.

Blurb:

According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.

So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon — both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle — are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.

And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .

 

4. Heist Society by Ally Carter

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I am delighted by everything in this book from the character Kat and her friends to the rules and secrets of their trade that are weaved throughout the story. Ally Carter is a master at worldbuilding in all of her series but this book in particular had me falling head over heels.

Blurb:

Kat’s got a deadline – two weeks to pull off the biggest heist in history…

When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her to the Lourve… to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her uncle travelled to Austria… to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she conned her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. But now her dad’s life is on the line, and Kat must go back to the world she tried so hard to escape.

 

5. LAMB, The Gospel According To Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore

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LAMB is wonderfully characteristic of Christopher Moore’s writing. It’s witty, doesn’t take itself too seriously yet, I always finish one of his books feeling like I’ve learned something. Even if I’m not quite sure what that something is.

This book in particular was a birthday gift that I was quite happy to receive a few years ago. It is a very funny book that doesn’t shy away from anything.

Blurb:

The birth of Jesus has been well chronicled, as have his glorious teachings, acts and divine sacrifice after his thirtieth birthday. But no one knows about the early life of the Son of God, the missing years – except Biff, the Messiah’s best bud, who has been resurrected to fill us in on what really happened.

Verily, the story Biff has to tell is a miraculous one, filled with remarkable journeys, magic, healings, kung fu, corpse reanimations, demons and hot babes. But even the considerable wiles and devotion of the Saviour’s pal may not be enough to divert Joshua from his tragic destiny. Of course, there’s no one who loves Josh more – except maybe ‘Maggie’, Mary of Magdala – and Biff isn’t about to let his extraordinary pal suffer and ascend without a fight.

And that’s the gospel truth.

 

6. The Shadowmagic Trilogy by John Lenahan

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This is another one of those rare times when I bought a book on kindle and then I bought it in paperback. Owning the trilogy in one big, beautiful paperback copy was too much for me to resist. I was hooked on this book from, the very first line. The writing is brilliantly easy to follow and from the the main character, Conor’s perspective. Going with him as he is confronted by an utterly brand new world is a journey I’ve happily taken more than once. Mythology fascinates me and this book was excellent for blending legend with a modern outlook on life.

Blurb:

A Lord Of The Rings for the 21st century. Only a lot shorter and funnier and completely different.

Hi, my name is Conor. Other than my father being an eccentric lunatic, my life was pretty normal until I got attacked in my living room by two warriors on horseback and whisked away to Tir na Nog, the mystical land of the ancient Celts, where it turns out Dad is the usurped heir to the throne and everybody wants me dead because of some prophecy. Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

 

7. Pegasus In Flight by Anne McCaffrey

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The second book in the ‘Pegasus’ series, I’ve blogged about this particular book before. I admit that it is not always an easy read and some of the situations the characters, particularly the younger characters Peter and Tirla, find themselves in are harsh but I find it very honest and at times wonderful, hopeful things happen as well.

Blurb:

Earth was at bursting point – desperately overcrowded in spites of the birth restrictions of only one child to each couple. Extra children existed in a sub-cultured world as they were rounded up into slavery.

The only hope was the space platform – the jumping-off point for the colonization of other worlds. And to build the space platform more ‘Talents’ were needed – the gifted special ones whose mental powers could perform prodigious tasks across space and time.

Rhyssa Owen, Director for Parapsychic Talents, was the one responsible for finding Talents and training them. And when she felt the first tentative, sad encroachment of a mind reaching out to her, she knew it was exceptional – a fourteen year old boy, his body crushed beyond repair, with the most powerful kinetic ability she had ever encountered. And, at the same time, in the seamy underworld of forgotten, unwanted, near criminal children, was another brilliant mind. Young, streetwise, but so talented she was in danger from a ruthless gang of child kidnappers.

Rhyssa knew she had to find the two children – find them and train them, for the survival of earth.

 

8. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy is the the sort of book which accepts eccentricity. It is very fun to read as Douglas Adams knows how to tell a story which is so detailed and exciting that you’re not particularly bothered if it doesn’t really make sense in the end.

Blurb:

One Thursday lunchtime the Earth gets unexpectedly demolished to make way, for a hyperspace bypass. For Arthur Dent, who has only just had his house demolished that morning, this seems already to be more than he can cope with. Sadly, however, the weekend has only just begun, and galaxy is a very strange and startling place.

 

9. The World’s Wife by Carol Ann Duffy

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When I was at college we were assigned some poems to study by Carol Ann Duffy. They all came from her book The World’s Wife and it really opened my eyes as to what poetry can be. It can be cheeky, brutally honest, short, long, meaningful, frivolous, etc. The World’s Wife is packed with excellent poetry.

Blurb:

Who? Him. The Husband. Hero. Hunk.
The Boy Next Door. The Paramour. The Je t’adore.

Behind every famous man is a great woman – and from the quick-tongued Mrs Darwin to the non-envying Frau Freud, from the adoring Queen Kong to the traumatized wife of the Devil himself, each one steps from her counterpart’s shadow to tell her side of the story in this irresistible collection.

Original, subversive, full of imagination and quicksilver wit, The World’s Wife is Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy at her beguiling best.

 

10. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

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When I first decided to read this book I’m not entirely sure what I was looking or hoping for. By the last page I knew that I had read a book that would stay with me. There were the small details such as Jo’s passion for writing that caught my attention, but overall I was left feeling comforted after all of the twists and turns that had emerged in the story.

Blurb:

This American classic is as fresh and meaningful today as it was when it was first written in the 19th century. Largely based on the author’s own childhood, Little Women is a timeless tale of the four young March sisters–Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy–who grow to maturity in their mother’s tender but strong care. As different in their personalities as they are alike in their devotion to each other, the girls vow to support their beloved mother, Marmee, by behaving their best while Father is away, serving as an army chaplain in the Civil War. 

Literary-minded tomboy Jo develops a fast friendship with the boy next door, and pretty Meg, the eldest, finds romance; frail and affectionate Beth fills the house with music, and little Amy, the youngest, seeks beauty with all the longing of an artist’s soul. Although poor in material wealth, the family possesses an abundance of love, friendship, and imaginative gifts that captivate readers time and again.

 

Often, it’s the feeling I’m left with at the end of a story that stays in my mind and invites me back to read again.

Day Trips and New Ideas

Earlier this week I was in York for the day (that’s a city in the North of England) and we began our exploration with a little shop on the street, The Shambles called ‘The Shop That Must Not Be Named’.

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As you may be able to guess, the shop sells merchandise related to the world of Harry Potter created by J.K. Rowling. From being greeted by ‘Luna’, who was wearing a pair of ‘spectrespecs’, at the doorway to ‘Professor Umbridge’ who stomped around stocking the shop and huffing loudly, the staff were very impressive and they were dressed to perfection. Plus, coincidentally, we were there on the 31st July, the day of Harry Potter’s birthday and there was a very nice sign in the front window wishing The Boy Who Lived happy birthday.

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There was something for every Hogwarts House as well as wands, chocolate frogs and the sword of Gryffindor (it was very shiny). Personally, I am very happy with my new hufflepuff scarf and the little packet of ‘Gillyweed’ that I was given at the counter was a quirky end to the experience.

There’s something very special about being able to buy merchandise that began with a fantastic book series. ‘The Shop That Must Not Be Named’ might not be very big but they have a great range of stock.

 

In other news, at the weekend my friend suggested a writing relay and I’ve already written a small section for it. Basically, the idea is that one person writes a part of a story and then the next person has to carry on the story from where it stopped. As a group we wanted to get started as soon as possible so, we used a writing prompt generator and the result was definitely unusual. We were up to the challenge.

Within approximately an hour and a half, we had a page of writing with six characters and three potential plotlines. We decided to work on 100-500 words each before passing it on to the next person and I really enjoyed writing my part. There was no real pressure because we were writing for fun and it was good practise to write such a short piece before passing it on to see what the next person would do with it.

I really hope that we continue with the story that we’ve begun. It’s nice to have a direct conversation about what we’re writing because it’s not always a common experience for a writer, especially when it involves short, focused sections of work.

Plus, writing with my friends kick-started my own thoughts about a beginning for an idea I had a while ago so I’m hopeful that it’ll become a good story if I continue to be inspired.

Creating a setting

The setting of a story is all about the details. The way in which your character interacts with the world around them can show a reader everything that they need to know, for example, a warm cup in their hand could suggest that they’re in a busy cafe.

Starting with the concepts of place and time, the setting is the place or condition where something exists or happens.

If you’re starting from scratch and haven’t attempted to create/ recreate a setting before then starting to write about a place that you know can be a good practise exercise. It’s all about the details. Look around, describe what you see and you’ve effectively recreated a setting. For most writers it’s the trick of doing this without having a physical reference that really makes a story stand out.

If the writer believes it then the reader should believe it.

Personally, I typically decide on the place before the time and I’ll start with the immediate surroundings of my character. Using details of what they can see is a much less daunting process than attempting to recreate an entire world from scratch before they’ve stepped out of their front door. If I need to name a town or a city, etc. that tends to happen later on in the process when I have the time to consider the detail without it interrupting the writing flow. (If you have no option but to name a place as you write, I tend to use any word that I’m unlikely to use elsewhere in the story and then I swap it out later for the real name)

Anything your character can see has the potential to be in the story. That’s where you consider plot as you write. Are the muddy shoes by the door or the thriving plant in front of the window or the crack in the white paint on the ceiling going to lead to a larger plot point further on in the story? The details that a writer shares should paint a specific picture so that the reader sees the same framed image in the end.

Time has a lot of influence on the setting. From whether it is night or day to the year in which the story is set. There is a big difference in the way that time is presented in a historical setting compared to a contemporary setting. Again, detail is the key. The presence of a mobile phone or a lack of street lights will add a sense of time to the story very quickly. Creating a sense of time is the same as creating the place, the details left in should lead to a conclusion.

Every decision made about setting should have an impact on the final outcome but, as the writer it is extremely likely that you will be the only one who sees the pattern. Accepting the changes and taking responsibility for them is part of the craft. The reader walks along the paths that the writer created.

All five senses are important to think about when you’re presenting your reader with a setting that you want them to believe in. In real life we react to the world around us using smell, touch, taste, sight and sound and your character’s reactions to the world around them should be considered in the same way. The smell of warm cookies to prompt the feeling of nostalgia and the sound of the wind rustling the leaves on a tree as your character takes a walk can have as much purpose on the page as they do in real life.

I never make specific lists when I think about setting but I always consider the basics: outside or inside? warm or cold weather? familiar or unfamiliar? busy or deserted?

It’s fun to stretch the imagination and envision vast, complicated landscapes and societal systems but the small details will keep the story close to your character and, hopefully, keep your reader on the right trail.

In my experience, combining what I know of creating plot, character and setting can make up a story to be proud of. It gives me a starting point and a foundation and when you’re thinking of targets and word counts it’s nice to go back and be reminded of how the story started out. It adds some perspective to the whole process.

Creating a plot

Crafting a plot for a story can be one of the most interesting/ frustrating/ exciting parts of any writer’s experience because the plot can be anything. A prospect that is both limitless and limited. As soon as you start writing then the structure appears and as a writer you are painting the broad strokes before you colour in between the lines.

There is just as much advice out there about plot as there is about creating a character. I went to university hoping to learn as much about my ability to create a story from scratch as anything else. In the end, in my experience, what I learned is this

If you are in love with what you write, then it will be right.

Beyond the basic beginning, middle and end a plot is a contained reality. It is a map to how your character gets from A to Z within the story. It is crafted by a writer who cares enough to follow the plot through to it’s conclusion regardless of the bumps in the road.

I have found that planning, even if it is a few words scribbled into a notebook before you throw yourself in headfirst, is always a good idea. Jotting down a few steps of your plot can prove to be useful at this stage. Planning isn’t about setting yourself limits and losing creativity. It’s about having a starting point so that if your characters fall off a cliff for no good reason you can go back to the beginning and try to figure out where the plot took a wrong turn.

I don’t believe that my planning would make sense to anyone other than myself when I am about to begin a brand new story. It doesn’t stop me from sharing with fellow writers though because, there are times when an idea doesn’t make complete sense to me until I’ve talked about it. I can fill in a lot of gaps in my plot if I have someone who is willing to listen and offer a suggestion if I’m obviously, desperately scrambling for an answer. I have only once tried to plan a story chapter by chapter and I’ve never finished the plan. I didn’t find it easy by any means to break it down to that level of detail before I’d started writing the actual story but that is personal preference. I like being surprised by a turn in the plot as I’m writing and a character does something that only makes sense once the words are down on the page. A broad scope of what I am aiming to achieve is a more common start for me.

I’m not strict about starting at the very beginning of a story because if it’s not working then I have to be okay with changing it or I won’t be comfortable with writing the rest of the story at all. However, I do like to at least have an opening line that I’m happy with. I also seem to remember I once had a strong idea for the ending of a story but I could never quite figure out how the characters had all reached that point. A task for another day.

I sometimes struggle with worrying that my plots are not complex enough or that they are too complex. The worry can sometimes make a plot even more messy. In moments when I become so anxious about it that I put down my pen or walk away from the keyboard there are stories out there that can seem simple in regards to plot but if the writing is good then it can be a big reminder. Everyone gets nervous or anxious about trying to do something new. I know that I’m capable of crafting a plot that I can be proud of and even when it’s hard to remember that, there will always be another idea. Another reason to write again.

Creating a character

Thinking about the first steps of writing a fictional story, when it comes to creating a character there are a lot of different ways that you can begin.

When I look back and break down a story (from a writing perspective because reading is a different mind-set) there are three facets which stand out the most to me:

  • Plot
  • Characters
  • Setting

The writing process should blend it all together until there are no inconsistencies for a reader to pick up on. Losing track of a story because the details don’t add up isn’t something that most readers welcome.

It is very, very rare for my first thought about a character to be their name. It’s probably the most flexible part of the process for me because I’ve been known to change the name of a main character up to eleven times before making a final choice. Refusing to change a character’s name just because it wasn’t the first name that I thought of can completely halt the creative process in my experience. Flexibility can go a long way.

More often than not, I’ll begin with a physical or mental trait, e.g. red hair or stubbornness.

After deciding on a defining trait or two I’ll usually turn to the dialogue and write a few lines just to see if I’m comfortable writing for that character. Writing a character’s ‘voice’ is a bit of a skill because the dialogue of a historical romance will always differ from a gritty detective novel and so forth. It takes practice and reading dialogue out loud whether it’s a novel or a script is a good tip. If it sounds natural as you speak then a reader shouldn’t be torn rudely from the flow of the story. I have also never met a group of writers who can completely agree upon whether or not you should write in ‘accents’ so the best advice I’ve heard is to go with the pattern you’re most comfortable with. Practice helps.

For the majority of the time, I will drop a character into a scene after knowing nothing more than these few details. I’ve decided on a name just before introducing them and I’ve also written paragraphs before mentioning their name. However, I’ve usually figured out their name before the end of the first page. If this isn’t the case and I have trouble finding a name, then considering whether or not the character is working within the confines of the story is always an option.

Deciding whether you want to avoid stereotypes or play them up is what every writer must consider, especially once they know the genre of their tale. If you take any kind of class/ read any book about creative writing, then you’re bound to come across the terms ‘round’ or ‘flat’ when it’s referring to the creation of characters. A ‘round’ character should be complex and have multiple facets of a personality whereas a ‘flat’ character is much less complicated and usually lacks flaws.

Every character should have a purpose, a reason for being in the story/scene/etc.
As a storyteller you are essentially trying to convince a reader that whatever you’ve written is true. It doesn’t matter what genre or form it takes because a writer is working in the realms of turning disbelief into belief.

Being able to tell if a character will work out or not can be instinctual but, in my experience, if you keep finding more reasons to follow the character through the story then you are onto a good streak.

 

 

Yesterday I was lucky to find two free booklets in my local bookshop that contained excerpts of stories that are due to be published later this year.

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Finding inspiration in music

Yesterday I went to see Baby Driver in the cinema (no spoilers, I swear) and the soundtrack had me thinking about the music I listen to when I’m writing.

I’m a CD kind of girl. I like being able to physically see the music I own and I don’t have the space or money to be into vinyl or anything like that (I also don’t really have the space for a lot of CD’s which is why I have to really consider what I buy but I am great at finding bargains). So, I definitely have albums and tracks that I listen to more than others. My mp4 player gets used more when I’m travelling than anything else but sitting down to write at the computer gets a little difficult without having my headphones plugged in because I get distracted. I can’t remember the last time I ever tried to put together something resembling an actual playlist. I’m just as happy listening to jazz as I am listening to folk or rock.

There are tracks that I’ll hear and they’ll sometimes inspire a piece of writing.

Occasionally, listening to an instrumental piece is the only way to go because it is likely to provide fewer distractions. My first creative writing assignment at university was written in one hour while I was listening to Beethoven’s diabelli variations. I’d been reading City Of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte at the time. The actual book wasn’t what I’d originally expected after borrowing it from the library but it was clever. I found the classical music pieces mentioned interesting enough to look up, partly because they weren’t the obvious choices which was good. The diabelli variations were the perfect length for me to write a long piece and it was new enough to me that any minor distractions were less interesting so I kept my focus.

I’ve always liked books that mention music. I own a copy of a book from when I was about fourteen called Audrey, Wait! that is all about a girl who has a hit song written about her and then her life is heavily affected by the sudden public interest. There’s a lot of bands mentioned in the book as well as general references to the music industry. When I bought it, by the end of the year it looked practically second hand because I’d read it so many times.

I know that some authors share about their playlists after they’ve written a particular book and I’ve found some great band recommendations thanks to this kind of sharing. Author’s blogs are a great place to look for this sort of thing.

Finding new songs/albums can go a long way to kick starting the inspiration process if I’m struggling for new ideas and at the moment the albums I seem to have been listening to the most are:

Astoria by Marianas Trench
DNCE by DNCE
Death Of A Bachelor by Panic! At The Disco

As for music that’ll inspire my next piece of writing, well, I think I’m in the mood to hear something eclectic and new to me. Looking up the tracks on the soundtrack for Baby Driver might be the next good place to start with.

 

 

Also, I was in York at the weekend and found this collection of stories for a great price.

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I’ve read Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series as well as different works such as, And Another Thing… which was his contribution to the Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy series by the amazing Douglas Adams so, I’m very familiar with Colfer’s work. I think that it’ll be interesting to see the kind of stories that he’s collected from other Irish authors and the illustrations by P. J. Lynch look wonderfully detailed.

Love to write

I remember writing a short story at primary school. I must’ve only been about six or seven at the time and it was a little creative story about a girl making friends with the monster who lived in her wardrobe (believe it or not, this was before the film Monsters Inc was released) and then she had to move house so she was sad because she was leaving her friend behind.

Apparently, I’ve never been the ‘write what you know’ kind of writer because I’ve lived in the same house for all of my life.

Anyway, as a result of writing this story I was sent around to other classrooms in the school to show off the work and I was very happy/embarrassed to be acknowledged in this way. Everyone was proud and encouraging and that’s probably the earliest, clearest memory I have about writing an original story.

Years later, when I went to university, in one of my first classes we were asked to answer some questions related to why we wanted to study English. I believe that one of the questions was related to our first memory of writing because, when I was asked to share I told the story that I’ve just told you.

The tutor implied that the idea of sharing a story in that way, at that age, would’ve put them off creative writing. I can understand why. It can be difficult to share something that you’ve worked hard on and, especially when you’re younger, any encouragement or negativity is a big concept. Yet, I was never put off and it kind of surprised me at the time to hear the tutor imply this.

I’ve always been grateful that I’ve been gently encouraged in my writing. There was never any pressure placed on me by anyone but myself when it came to the writing I wanted to do. I have lots of memories of writing stories, like when I was ten and the adventure story I wrote in class was about six pages longer than it needed to be (I wish I could remember if I ever actually finished it).

The way I write or the way I treat my writing might change sometimes but what doesn’t change is the fact that I love it. It genuinely makes me happy to be writing. I chose to study at university purely because I loved to write.

Writing as a career wasn’t necessarily something that I always wanted to pursue from the beginning. Although I loved stories, when I was younger it just never occurred to me that it was an option.

There was a single book that made me wonder if I could write stories for a living. I reckon that I was about ten years old at the time when I first read ‘The Fire Within’ by Chris D’Lacy.

For the record, no matter what age you are, I thoroughly recommend this book.

It is beautiful.

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In the book the main character is just starting university and had no intention of becoming a writer but, along the way, he finds a reason to write a short, creative story for the first time in his life. Finding this character who found a reason to write made a big impact on me at the time. At the time I thought ‘this is the kind of story I want to be able to write’.

That was a very big thought for someone with only ten years of life experience but, looking at that book now, it’s still my response to this day.

‘The Fire Within’ is so wonderfully creative. As you might be able to tell from the slightly tattered edges of the book in the photo it’s been read many times by more than just me over the past decade. It fits into the category of ‘low fantasy’ which is a term I came across recently and love because it’s basically the world we know but anything can happen, you can stretch the limits of reality until they break, and that it is a wonderful, limitless world to work with for any writer.

I write because I want to. There is no end goal. On the contrary, I hope that I will always find new reasons to write. Pursuing something that you love, that makes you happy, is the best reason to do anything. Writing makes me happy and I’m lucky to be making continuing good memories about what I love.

Comic Books

As a kid and a teenager I was never into comic books.

It wasn’t until I was at university that I bought my first comic book.

It wasn’t entirely on a whim because I’d looked at it in the bookshop about five times beforehand (As much as I love to look, I tend to consider what I’m buying very carefully because I have limited space on my bookshelves).

I was already a bit of a fan of Deadpool. I like anti-heroes because they’re complex characters and they’re motivations are interesting. Previously, I’d read things online and I was drawn to the Marvel Universe because of what I already knew, but I’d never read a complete storyline before.

For my first comic, it was probably about 3-4 years ago when I bought ‘Deadpool Volume 5: Wedding of Deadpool’ – I went back and bought the first four later – and I remember reading the whole story the day that I bought it. I liked the style of the artwork and the story was funny with an interesting plot. It wasn’t difficult to read at all (even though I was missing some plot details from the earlier editions) and I was 100% right about being interested in the character of Deadpool.

The Wedding of Deadpool (2)

Now, I can name a lot more of the characters on the cover than when I first bought it but that wasn’t intentional. I simply bought the comic because it was the most interesting book I’d seen at the time.

I ended up buying all of the Deadpool comics in that particular series. Buying them all was interesting because I’d caught up before the final edition of the series was released and I was genuinely excited to read the finale of the story arc. It was the same sort of feeling to waiting for a new novel to be released by a favourite author but I knew that I’d finish the comic quickly. Reading a comic for the first time is a fleeting experience but knowing that didn’t really change my excitement in waiting for ‘Deadpool Volume 8: All Good Things’. I just had to make the most of that first read-through.

The majority of comics that I now own feature Deadpool but ‘Hawkeye – Volume 1: My Life As A Weapon’ was a birthday present that I was thrilled with. I love how crazy things just seem to happen around Clint Barton and there was a lot of drama as well as action packed in. I liked the pace of the Hawkeye comic that kept me flipping the pages without pause.

Hawkeye Volume 1 My Life As A Weapon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After this, I felt lucky when I found the comic Hawkeye VS Deadpool because it was definitely a combination of two of my Marvel characters in a storyline that was just so very them. It was complete chaos, of course, but it was a brilliant collaboration at the same time.

Hawkeye VS Deadpool

Branching out after my first few Deadpool comics was varied and I really didn’t have a research process or anything when I was deciding what was going to come home with me.

When it came to the ‘Loki: Agent of Asgard’ trilogy I just knew I had to have it after picking up the first one as I was browsing the shelf. I wanted to know the story, how Loki had reached the point that he was at and why, from the very first page as I glanced in it while I was in the shop.

Any details I didn’t know from other series that impacted on Loki’s story I just had to pick up from what I was reading in that particular short comic series. Like Deadpool, I find Loki an interesting character. With his many incarnations and complicated story lines he’s a character with a lot of depth. I like the amount of conflict packed into the pages where he’s featured.

Loki Agent of Asgard

The last comic I bought was ‘The Unbelievable Gwenpool Volume 1: Believe It’ which was a bit different despite it’s definite Marvel vibe but, I suppose that’s to be expected when characters are crossing dimensional boundaries. This comic was quite the wild ride. I must admit that I liked the parts featuring Dr Stephen Strange who I’m used to popping in and out of stories that I’ve read, since that I’ve not read any comics strictly centred around him yet.

The unbelievable gwenpool

I do admit that I’m partial to the Marvel Universe whereas my sister is more likely to buy D.C. Comics. She likes the Harley Quinn comics and temporary swapping between us isn’t out of the question because we’re not totally opposed to the other franchise but it doesn’t happen a lot. Really, we’re more likely to chat about them than read them separately.

I try to restrain myself when buying comics because I really, really do not have the space for a lot of them but there are still editions that I want. ‘Deadpool: Dracula’s gauntlet’ is definitely one of them because I’d love to get the full story of how he met Shiklah in the first place. ‘Star Wars: Poe Dameron Volume 1 Black Squadron is another which would be my first Star Wars comic.

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A small section of my bookshelf. Little Lego Deadpool was a gift from my best friend 🙂

 

 

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