In The Writing Zone…

It’s my favourite place and I love it here. Yes, I am currently well and truly trapped in the writing zone. For anyone who is not sure what I mean by this, imagine being given full access to the thing you love doing the most. Imagine that thing giving you pure, unadulterated joy. Imagine that thing going really, really well and filling you with feelings of satisfaction and excitement. That is how I would describe the writing zone.

Of course, I’m a writer and I write every day if I can. Sometimes life gets in the way and it doesn’t happen. Sometimes I am trapped in the editing zone for what feels like years…This is not so bad. I actually love editing and revising my books. To me, this process is really interesting, as you begin to shape and mould your first splurge of words into something that others can hopefully one day appreciate.

But I have to admit that writing the first draft of a new book is the most fun thing ever, and perhaps the most addictive. If it is going well, and I am well and truly ‘in the zone’, then the book is all I can think about. Here are some signs that I am in the writing zone, with no sign of emerging any time yet…

  • when I am not writing, I am thinking about writing. The book in progress dominates my every waking thought. It follows me around like a daydream I can’t escape from. If I go for a walk, the book is in my head. If I go to bed, there it is again. There is no escaping it and I wouldn’t want to.
  • when I am writing, I’m writing fast. Super fast. It’s been there all day teasing me and making suggestions, so when I finally get at that keyboard, it’s a bit like an explosion. Certainly, it’s messy and there will be plenty to clear up later in further drafts, but right now, speed is everything. I need to get that story out of my head!
  • when in the zone, time does not exist. I don’t even think to look at the time. It’s just not relevant. I will keep going until I feel there is a good place to stop and leave it for tomorrow.
  • I am happy. Really happy. This new book has probably been in my head for years and the book is happy to be getting its turn and the characters are really, really happy to be having their voices heard, and so I am happy too. It gives me an enormous sense of satisfaction and relief to be finally writing a book that has had to wait so long.
  • I’m excited. I kind of hate the start of the day, because normally writing has to wait until the evening. So I feel guilty, but can’t help wishing the day away so that I can get to the end of it and start my writing.
  • the writing is my reward. I can’t allow myself to have this reward until everything else is done. So, the day-jobs, the children, the pets, the husband, the house, the errands all need to be sorted out, before I can allow myself this wonderful indulgence. This is a great motivator because there is no way I am not getting my writing time!
  • I am distracted. There is a running joke in my house that I react to things a few minutes after I’ve heard them…and this is probably true. I’m so distracted by the writing zone, that it’s hard to focus on anything else. I get really forgetful in this state and my family certainly notice it.
  • I feel like myself. I think when I am sucked into the zone, I am more ‘me’ than I am at any other time. Which sort of means, I am multiple ‘me’s’ ? Slightly worrying perhaps, but I think more than anything, writing and loving writing are what make me me. It is the love that has been with me the longest and saved me the most times and provided me with so much it’s impossible to even try to explain.
Basically me!

So, that’s me, ‘in the zone’. I’m working on two new books, (one is the first in a four book series, and the other is the fifth in a sixth book series) at the same time. It’s utterly crazy but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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The Mess Of Me Now

In 2013 I released my debut Young Adult novel, The Mess Of Me. Originally, it was part of the self-publishing platform, Autharium. I then got a publishing deal with a small press and removed it from Autharium. This did not go to plan as a whole year later the small press had done nothing and not responded to my messages, so I decided to take it back and put it back with Autharium…who then closed. Since then, it has been with Pronoun, who also closed, and with Amazon. Currently, like my other books, The Mess Of Me is self-published through the indie collective Pict Publishing, and there I hope, it will stay.

Six years though! In that time I have published eight more books, had another child and started my own Community Interest Company; Chasing Driftwood Writing Group. Life has indeed changed a lot.

But in many ways, Lou Carling, the 16-year-old narrator of The Mess Of Me, is still with me, perhaps increasingly so. I will perhaps explain in another blog post, another day, but for a while now I have not been feeling myself and in times when I am feeling down, Lou is the voice I hear the loudest.

Perhaps because she is the character most like me. They say that a grain of truth seeps into every work of fiction and I agree. They say that characters are often at least partially based on people we know, or on parts of ourselves, and again, I agree.

In fact, Lou is not just the character most like me. She pretty much is me. When I wrote that book, it was perhaps the most cathartic process for me. I had an idea for a plot, for characters, back story and so on, but more than all of that, I had a burning desire to just speak my thoughts through her. Everything Lou says, thinks and feels in The Mess Of Me comes from me. Me when I was a teenager, and me now. I still think of myself as a mess and I probably always will.

The issues with food are still there, just as I suspect they will always be there for Lou. It’s just that as you grow older, you work out ways to rationalise your irrational thoughts. Or as in my case, you have your own children and are determined to set a good example and not let them down.

But for me, The Mess Of Me is a voice in my head, and Lou’s voice is one I hear more than ever lately. I feel the strongest urge to write the sequel, which contains a storyline which is also something true from my own life, but at the moment there are too many other books in progress to focus on it.

Anyway, here are a few reasons why Lou is me and I am Lou;

  • She is obsessed with being thinner
  • she thinks her life will be better if she is thinner
  • every day she thinks and obsesses about being thinner
  • if she does not do anything to help her get thinner she feels like a failure
  • she puts all her thoughts and feelings in writing rather than actually telling people
  • she’s feels the pull of self-destructive behaviour and tries hard to resist
  • she thinks everyone else’s lives are far more interesting than her own
  • for this reason, despite not really liking humans too much, she is endlessly fascinated with them
  • she is in love with her best friend

For those of you perhaps interested in reading about Lou and Joe’s messy summer, the ebook is currently just 99p on Amazon and all other ebook platforms. Please consider leaving an honest review if you do happen to purchase the book. Many thanks!

Embracing All Forms of Writing

There was once a time I considered myself a novel writer and a novel writer only. It was what I wanted to do and it was my comfort zone. I will probably always be happiest when lost inside the numerous drafts it takes to construct a novel. I’m confident with this form of writing, and a few years ago I would never have considered any other.

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Of course, that attitude had to change when I started publishing. I soon noticed that all authors had a blog or website and I shyly embraced this as a way of sharing my writing and gaining followers. It took me a while to get into the spirit of it, but it’s fair to say, once I found my feet, I began to relish writing my blog posts, and most of the time I’ve been fairly good at writing on a weekly basis.

As my attitude to blog writing changed, so did my attitude towards other types of writing. Back when I considered myself just a novel writer, I would never have considered trying my hand at writing articles. But somewhere along the line, I gained the confidence and started submitting articles about writing to Author’s Publish. This style of writing did not come naturally for me and I spent a lot of time reading and analysing their previous articles in order to work out what was wanted. When I had the first few accepted, I was over the moon. It was a real confidence boost.

Short stories were another form I once dismissed. I write such long books, that writing something short just seemed impossible. However, when someone mentioned writing short stories to compliment your books, I did get excited. This eventually led to Bird People and Other Stories, and now that I’m more practiced, short stories are a regular thing for me and I hope to have another collection out this year.

Screenwriting was another form of writing I never would have tried a few years back, despite how much I’ve always longed any of my books to be made into films or TV programmes. In fact, I often write as if imagining a real scene and pen my dialogue this way. Last year, when I had the new material for The Boy With The Thorn In His Side filling my head, I was reluctant to do anything about it but decided writing the material in screenplay form would be quick and fun and would help get it out of my head. It became ridiculously addictive! I read a few books about screenwriting and downloaded Scrivener, and off I went. Writing the book as a screenplay first was so much fun, and as I carried the notebook around with me everywhere, I got it done really quickly. Just recently I completed a free Introduction To Screenwriting course with Futurelearn, and I absolutely loved it!

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And just lately, I’ve been playing around with another form of writing I once turned away from. Poetry. When I was a young teenager, I did go through a poetry and song-writing phase. But I was put off by the poetry we had to study at school. It was so wonderful and complex, it just made me feel I could never compete, so why bother?

Poetry was not my thing, or so I told myself. But something weird happened very recently. I started getting ideas, or thoughts, quite randomly, which were really all just things I wanted to say. They were too short, random and weird for blog posts, articles or short stories though, so I started writing them in note style, like poems. I also starting re-reading a Bukowski poetry book I have, one of the only poetry books I’ve really enjoyed, and his style encourages you to have a go. I don’t think he followed any rules or was ever taught how to structure a poem, he just did it. He just wrote what he thought and felt. There is something really raw and beautiful about that and I think people should be encouraged to do it.

Once I started writing, more started to flow. I’ve nearly filled a notebook now and I’ve even decided to put some of them in my next short story collection and make a short story and poetry collection instead. I don’t try to force them or rush them, and they all seem to come from an emotional place, rather than a descriptive or rational place. Which is weird, and interesting.

I thought I would be really brave and share two of them with you today. These are two of the really early ones that came to me when this poetry thing started. These are first drafts and I’ve not messed with them or edited them since I wrote them, so please bear this in mind! I’m looking out for a local poetry workshop to go to, as I’d like to learn more and get my poems as well crafted as I can.

As always feel free to comment and share! How do you gain the courage to try new things? Do you have a comfort zone you wish to edge out of?

 

Murder

The crows were pissed off today

Fury in their hacking call

Feet pounding, heart racing

Breath hissing

Because I am not as young 

As I used to be

The crows took flight

Reluctant, squawking rage

Lifting and falling

Silhouettes in the black bones

of trees

The crows were pissed off today

Do they plot murder?

They say they hold funerals for their fallen

If this is true

What might be in store for us?

The crows were pissed off today

As I ran on

But I am not the one

Who shoots them with a gun

So that they live their lives

With one eye trained down

No wonder they screech and cry and hack

I’m pissing them off just being here

On the way back

A rasping sound

Like they are dying

Maybe they know

That everything is

Things You Don’t Want To Do

What’s that tangled mess in your belly?

For no reason

‘Cause nothing is wrong

Yet, it’s there like a disease

Writhing and tightening

Til you can’t breathe

With the weight of it all 

Following you around

Maybe it’s just the fear

Of the unknown

Of death in a metal mess

Of breathing your last

Ragged breath

Or maybe it’s just

All the things you don’t want to do

I Confess…I Write My Books For Me

I think it’s time to admit the truth. Who am I aiming to please when I write and publish a book? Well, mostly it’s me. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. 2018 was an endless round of editing and revising for me, as I prepared Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature for release in October, and revamped and released The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Parts One and Two, and edited Parts Three and Four. Because of this amount of editing, and the fact I was taking part in a reading challenge, I didn’t get a hell of a lot of reading for pleasure done last year.

Which made me think about a few things. One, I really, really enjoy reading my own books, no matter how many times I’ve edited or read through them… Eek, I know, sounds big-headed, doesn’t it? But it’s true. I love my characters and my storylines have me hooked so much they keep me awake at night. Every single book I’ve ever published has a sequel bubbling away inside my head. I just can’t fully let any of them go. I’d miss them too much.

So, when I edit, revise, read through, proofread again and again and again, I enjoy it. I genuinely do. I become immersed in these characters lives. I enjoy the drama and the twists and the turns, even though I know how it ends! Weird, right?

Well, maybe not. After all, why do writers start writing in the first place? I’ve been thinking about this. Now, I’m sure for some it’s the dream of money and fame, of making it ‘big’, becoming an international, award-winning bestseller, who has all their books made into films. JK Rowling or Stephen King, in other words. I mean, it sounds amazing, so who wouldn’t want that?

And I’m sure for some, it’s the urge to entertain, to spin tales, to amuse, to awaken, to entice, to deliver a message.

But for others, I think it’s something different, something they’re not entirely in control of. And I think reading sparks it off. Reading a good book at a young age, then reading more. Becoming utterly drawn into a made-up world that holds your attention, keeps you amused, enthralled, or terrified. The kind of book you don’t want to end. The kind you want everyone else to read just so you can talk about it with them. The kind where you want the characters to be real, and almost believe that they are.

And then, because this is just so exciting, you start to wonder. I could do this myself. I could entertain myself. Then I’d be in control, and it need never end! I can create worlds and lives and people just how I want them, and I can make it funnier, or scarier, or sadder, whenever I want to. Forever!

'If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, you must be the one to write it.'-Toni Morrison.jpg

And thus, a writer is born. A writer who originally set out to please only themselves.

That’s definitely how it was for me. Throughout my childhood and my teenage years, I was totally addicted to writing. I wrote early versions of some of the books I have since published or are working on. I wrote short stories, poems and endless, endless diaries and outpourings of words, thoughts, feelings, and dreams. My writing kept me sane, and it kept me entertained. I was never lonely or bored. I absolutely adored this game of make-believe, and I still do.

I write what I want to read, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. Maybe this is true of a lot of writers, I don’t know. It’s no coincidence that the kind of books I write are the kind of books I am always searching to read. I long to read books with amazing, complex characters, the type you never forget, the type you love and loathe in equal measures, the type you can empathise with and root for. I love realistic dialogue and prefer that to too much exposition. I like to read about characters I can relate to, which is difficult as so many books contain middle-class characters. I like to read gritty, hard-hitting storylines. I like realism.

So, there you have it. When I write a book I am mostly writing for myself. I want to write something for me to read. That’s not to say I don’t then spend years trimming it, honing it, revising it, proofreading and editing it until it becomes something I am proud to put out into the world. That goes without saying. I do want people to read my books. Desperately. I do want those reviews and those messages. Without a doubt, I would like better sales! And of course, my ultimate dream is to have all my books made into films or TV series! You got to have your dreams, right?

But in the beginning, it’s me I’m trying to please.

And I think that’s okay. At the very least, it means I will never stop writing!