Two Frustrations Authors Face (That Mean GOOD Things Are Happening)

Had to share! Such a good positive article! Problems can be good too!

Creative Writing with the Crimson League

“I have the best idea!!! I have to tell…. Oh, WAIT a second….”

Writing fiction is delicate, difficult, and sometimes painful work. However, some of those difficulties are lighter than most, even if the frustration is real.

I feel like my last series of posts has been pretty heavy, exploring the connections between character, characterization, and emotions such as love and hate, and even how fear can be a paralytic or a motivator.

Because of that, I thought today it could be fun to start a conversation about the “good” problems and the wonderful “frustrations” of creative writing. You know: the troubles that are indicators of good things and are unavoidable byproducts of the creative process doing what it should.

1. I just had the best idea EVER for my story…. And I can’t tell anyone.

There is a time for collaboration and getting second opinions when it comes to…

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Authors I Own the Most Books From

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke & The Bookish. Each week they release a Top Ten Theme and invite everyone to join in and make their own Top Ten List.

My list was much harder to make than I thought. Turns out I go for books more the authors, but here are the authors I own the most books by:

1. Arthur Conan Doyle – I have the complete Sherlock Holmes (I haven’t read every single story yet but I will!)

2. Sophie Kinsella – All the Shopaholic books and Can you Keep a Secret. She’s the queen of chick lit and I’m very excited for the new Shopaholic.

3. J.K. Rowling – come on …

4. C.S. Lewis – All the Narnia delights – haven’t read them in eons

5. Anthony Horowitz – The Power of Five is amazing – I still need to read the last book.

6. Belinda Jones – From my chick lit teen days

7. Meg Cabot – (See above comment) – I loved her Missing series

8. Oscar Wilde – I’ve cheated with an anthology but there was a whole module on him

9.  Roald Dahl – I love his stories and I can still recite the Cinderella Revolting Rhyme off by heart

10. George R.R. Martin – My current book series! I’ve got one more left to read, come on George hurry up and get the next one!

What are your faves?

Reading Like a Writer: Game of Thrones Edition

Thanks to the lovely people at Casual Readers I’ve just published my first ever guest blog. And here’s another look here!

I don’t know about you but I reread books, sometimes more times than I can keep count of. Every time I pick up an old faithful someone will ask, “that again? But you know what happens!” It doesn’t matter that I know what happens, I still enjoy the journey. There’s another reason too, as an aspiring writer, rereading stories teaches me how the the author has created their story.

I can’t help but read like a writer. Reading like a writer and reading like reader is the difference between reading actively and passively. There is nothing wrong with reading passively, we all know it’s lovely to read and turn your brain off but writers, even if they’re only amateurs like myself can’t help but look for the how and why.

I’m going to use George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series of books as an example (and I’m going to try very hard not to include any spoilers). I started the first book A Game of Thrones about six weeks ago and I still have one and a half books to go before I’ll have finished the series. But I developed a theory about one of the main characters half way through the first book, although I don’t yet know for certain that I’m right, I have every reason to believe Martin is pointing in this direction.

In the very first book you’re introduced to a character called Jon Snow (portrayed by the beautiful Kit Harrington), he’s the bastard son of Lord Stark and he’s been raised in his father’s household as one of his children. But Jon’s life isn’t quite like his highborn brothers and sisters, the Lady of the household despises him, he is colloquially known as the bastard and his father keeps his mother’s identity a closely guarded secret.

Why? Was my first question, what is the point of giving Lord Stark a bastard? Good writers don’t introduce big characters like Jon Snow without a purpose, but as a bastard Jon is fundamentally limited in Martin’s world, so why make him a bastard?

My second question regarded the identity of Jon’s mother, it wasn’t who she was but rather why she was a secret. One explanation could be that Lord Stark didn’t want to upset his Lady wife but other than seeming a pretty flimsy excuse, he has no trouble telling her to keep her nose out when she asks. So why the secret? A Game of Thrones is written in the perspective of different characters, Lord Stark could tell the reader her identity in any of his chapters but he doesn’t. In my experience, a writer explaining away someone like they have Jon’s mother is for two reasons. One, the writer hasn’t actually thought it through (a bad writer), or two because it will become significant later and Martin has invested in his world too thoroughly for it to be anything but the latter.

By half way through book one, I’d reaffirmed that Jon’s parentage was important because the question of his mother continued to be raised. Also by this point, I’d gotten to know Jon’s father much better and the more you read of him, the odder it seems that this man even has a bastard. Lord Stark is honourable to his core, you know it and other characters know it, but siring Jon while he was married seems far from the honourable picture Martin has created of Lord Stark. In fact, it starts to seem distinctly out of character. Lady Stark is forever miffed by Jon and the way Lord Stark fiercely protects the identity of his mother, she says he must have loved her very much.

But the only woman Lord Stark loves other than his wife and daughters, is his sister. The same sister who was set to marry the king before her untimely death, and Lord Stark did make her a mysterious promise on her deathbed…

Before I seal my lips, I’ll present you with one last question, why has Martin included such a rich background for a character that died before the story starts?

A friend of mine read GOT at the same time as me and didn’t come to the same theory. Another friend has finished the entire series, he holds the same theory but didn’t come to it until very late on. The difference between my friends and I was that I read this as a writer, I was looking for clues and asking why right from the beginning.

I will hold my hands up and admit that I don’t know if I’m right about Jon’s identity, but if I’m wrong all Martin’s signposts have been planted wonky.

Please let me know what you think! I think I’ll start ‘Reading Like A Writer’ as a monthly thing, so let me know your thoughts or any book ideas!

Topsy Turvy

I wrote the following poem in my final year at university for a creative writing module. As a rule I prefer fiction to poetry but I had a lot of fun writing this one, probably because it’s a compilation of stories! This poem refers to 17 stories, either by act, name, quote or character, can you guess them all?

Topsy Turvy, Upsy Daisy

“When in Wonderland do as the Hatters

do,” said Alice as she climbed out of the

rabbit hole and back into the world, (where

madness is called polite society).


5     I walked through the woods with Christopher Robin

to have tea with Mr. Toad. And as I returned on

the train to Hogwarts, that greedy Gretel ate

the trail of breadcrumbs, so we couldn’t

find our way to Mr. Wonka’s factory. He told me,

10   “Take a coat with you to the wardrobe, it’s cold!”

and I replied “that’s elementary my dear,

you go meet Mr. Jekyll, and I’ll hyde from

the mad woman in the attic, run Jane, run,

before they lock you in room 101,

15   didn’t you know it’s a sin To Kill A Mockingbird?”

Lizzie overcame her pride to marry Mr. Darcy,

but poor Pip and Estella weren’t meant to be

ignored like The Scarlet Letter

(signed P.S. I loved You),

20   because you were expecting Mr. Bond.


If you could hear me, I’d help you:

“run!” “stay!” “hide!”

But, you don’t know me.

And, I know you all too well.

And that’s it! Please let me know what you think! Did you get all 17 clues?

But it’s a Classic …

Put your hand on your heart and answer honestly, how many classic stories have you ever read just because you wanted to? … If you’re anything like me the answer will be under five.

Almost every classic novel or story I’ve read has been at the hand of a reading list, I’ve rarely ever picked one up to read for the sake of reading. Now don’t get me wrong, there are some excellent classics out there and some that are even easy to read (‘Sherlock Holmes’, ‘Persuasion’, ‘Jane Eyre’, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ …) but in my experience, whether I’ve found them worthwhile or not, reading classic novels can be a slog.

Let’s look at the facts:

– Generally they are very long

– Generally they are very wordy using archaic language of their time

– Generally the plot moves very slowly (have you ever tried to read ‘Robinson Crusoe’?)

And by the time you come to modernism in the early 20th Century, the plots are so damn incomprehensible that you’re no closer to understanding them at the end than you were at the beginning- (I mean ‘Ulysses’ was written to be difficult to read).

girl-tired-reading-books-studying-school-22085676

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a big bibliophile and I think teaching literature to the next generation (and a lot of the current one) is vital. But more than that, I enjoy reading and therefore I want to read books I enjoy and that can exclude a lot of classics. So what qualifies as a classic? Why do we read them if they’re difficult?

According to Wikipedia, a classic book is “a book accepted as being exemplary or noteworthy, either through an imprimatur such as being listed in any of the Western canons or through a reader’s own personal opinion.” Pretty vague, right? By definition, the very basis of a classic novel is completely subjective. (And any lit student knows what a pain in the bum subjectivity is).

For me classic literature falls into three columns: easy books I enjoyed, difficult books I could appreciate and difficult books that I didn’t appreciate. In column one, let’s take Austen, I enjoyed ‘Persuasion’ because it was easy and I can appreciate it’s importance lies in the way it documents social norms of Austen’s time… but let’s call a spade a spade, if Austen were writing now she’d be a successful chick lit author. Then in column two there’s Dickens, I can appreciate ‘Great Expectations’ and I’m glad I read it, but I enjoyed it more after I’d read the final page. Finally in column three, there’s ‘Caleb Williams’ by Godwin, the most boring book I’ve ever read and even after a lecture  I fail to see why it’s important.

So here’s my question, do you enjoy classics or do you read them because they’re worthwhile? Which ones did you enjoy? Which did you think were worthwhile? And which would you banish to room 101 for being schoolroom torture?

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Simple Pleasures

We’re having a heatwave in Britain at the moment. It’s glorious for a lot of reasons, mainly because a British heatwave normally refers to three days of sunshine and this one has gone on for weeks.

If you’re British, the weather is a constant topic of conversation and no matter whether it’s glorious sunshine or a snow storm, we love to moan about it. The heat’s great but … I don’t mean to complain but … well, don’t worry, we’re British, it’s what we do. (That and queueing).

Over the weekend the heat’s caused thunderstorms, and I mean real storms with thunder, lightning and torrential rain. I love to watch storms out my window, I have a really vivid memory of curling up with the Prisoner of Azkaban as a child and listening to the rain and gales outside. Sometimes the rain can be a magical moment.

This weekend, my friends and I went to the pub and got trapped in the car while the storm raged. We couldn’t even see through the windows because they were so obscured with water. And then it slowed down, just slow enough for us to make a break for it. We ran the twenty metres from the car to the pub, getting absolutely drenched but by the time we were inside we couldn’t stop laughing.

For some reason, when you’re running a short distance with the right people you feel like a child again. It doesn’t matter that your hair gets ruined or you clothes stick to you because it’s made you feel happy. It’s a wonderful moment and a completely innocent source of fun.

Maybe it’s due to the Hollywood experience, where dramatic scenes occur in the rain to emphatic music (you know exactly what I mean).  Whatever it is, I have so many happy memories of running through the atrocious weather and it’s a simple pleasure I hope I never grow out of.

(Image sourced from http://jimmihenshite.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/park-running-in-rain.html)

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My First Follow Friday

It’s my first follow friday so apologies if I’ve done this wrong, my tech savviness is fairly low!

Question of the Week: Post a funny Youtube video:

Has absolutely nothing to do with books but I love musicals and think Neil Patrick Harris is awesome – this is the 2013 Tony Awards Opening number. The Tonys just look like the best awards show ever! Enjoy and praise Neil for the talented theatre god he is.

Hope you’ve enjoyed that as much I as I did! Happy #FF!

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Colouring in the Words

So far I’ve accomplished three things this week, seriously hurting my neck from trying to do an 8 minute abs work out, getting an abysmally low score on a pub quiz and beginning going over my book. I’m sure my neck and general knowledge will get better and but my book’s a bigger problem.

Just to catch you up if you haven’t read my previous post, I’m writing a book about five recent graduates who steal a load of money to help them get by in a time where they have no idea what to do next, so of course thievery seems like the best option available. It’s supposed to be funny and a bit ridiculous but have enough heart to relate to the graduates out there going through the same thing (minus the robbing).

So far, I can say the writing’s not bad (yay) almost good the more the story progresses but I work on that later. My concern now is that the story isn’t substantial enough, it feels a bit flimsy. I’ve got good motivation, I’ve got well rounded characters and I have a clear plot but my story still feels a bit thin (unlike me because I’m unable to do anymore exercise – damn my weak core).

I’m one of those freaks who likes grammar, I actually enjoyed editing essays at uni, but editing the big picture and moulding the plot is so much harder than fixing sentences. I wish I could lay my whole book out in front of me and absorb everything at once but no visual metaphors are helping right now. My lack of objectivity here is a big problem, I’m too close to tell whether it’s a good story, I’m finding problems everywhere and mucking about with sentences where I should be fixing content. My confidence is ebbing and my nerves are frayed from a whole load of small, medium and big spiders appearing at very inconvenient times.

When I’ve read the whole thing once, whether I’m happy with it or not, I’ll hand it over to someone else to read, namely my good friend (and the superior writer) Phoebe. I can trust her to be brutally honest with me and she can trust me not to get all offended and cry. I’m essentially asking her to strip my story down and point out every flaw she sees, it’s not going to pretty but it will be helpful. I figure I’m in for a lot of criticism down the line so I may as well begin it with my friends, who will hopefully be gentle.

I need your help too! If you were reading a graduate story like this, what kind of things would you want in it? What do you think would give it meat (so to speak)? Any comments and anecdotes are more than welcome!

(Apologies for the aesthetics of my blog – I’m new to wordpress and I’ll make it look nicer once I figure it out a bit more!)

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71,000 words down … 71,000 words to do again

Hello! I’m Sophie, I’m 22, I lack physical co-ordination, any spatial awareness and my greatest achievement so far in life is that my embarrassing anecdote of accidentally wedging myself half-in/half-out of a revolving door made it into Miranda Hart’s companion book ‘No It’s Us Too’. Bookshelf

I can’t remember when I started writing or how many unfinished stories I’ve got stashed in odd draws and littering my computer files but now I have finally, finally, finished writing an entire book. Hoorah! …. Or not. Everywhere I look online I find articles like ‘How to be Published’, ‘You’ve Written Your Book, What Next?’, ‘What Professional Writer’s Really Earn’ and ‘Dos and Don’ts of Submissions’. These articles have managed to simultaneously confuse me and scare me witless, leaving a trail of dark doubts about entering into this publishing lottery.

And yet, no matter how small my chances seem (and the odds do look abysmal) this is all I want to do. As painfully cliche as it sounds I have so many stories to tell … but let’s start with the one first.

Have you noticed there’s a great gap in the market for university and graduate fiction? There’s teen fiction, young adult (often a euphemism for older teen) and then it goes straight to stories aimed at adults dealing with your 20s, 30s, children etc. The university market is huuuge and yet I haven’t ever seen a book that centres around this time in your life. (If you’ve heard of any please let me know, I’d love to read them).

So with inspiration in the form of my lovely and hilarious friends,  I’ve written about five graduates who have come to live back at home, are nostalgic for their uni days, have no idea what to do with their lives and feel as grown up as they did when they were 16. They’re pretty much like us … except these graduates have stolen a load of money to get them through.

I’m trying to tell a ridiculous story in an honest way, so although the greater aspects of the plot might seem unlikely (to say the least) the smaller everyday aspects are something that should strike a chord. I say ‘should’ because I’ve yet to test it out. (I’d like to thank my friends in advance for reading this and also thank them for the use of their lives and anecdotes for commercial purposes). Don’t worry guys, they may have your lives but none of the characters are based on any of you.

Deciding how much personal experience to use was tricky, on the one hand a biography of my life would be as exciting as the manual to a toaster and on the other hand, writing about what you know makes a story more substantial. Using personal experience was unavoidable but instead of documenting our lives I caricatured them, made them funnier and more exciting to create something new and fiction worthy. I mean there’s the odd part that’s stayed the same … some things are too good to make up.

Writing and getting to the end of the whole book has been really fulfilling and it’s given me a sense of catharsis that I hadn’t anticipated … but it has been a lot of work. I read once that writing isn’t supposed to be fun and that actually helped me go the distance, it’s taken a lot of hours and evenings and weekends to get this far and it’ll take even more to get it to a readable standard but it’s worth it. I’ve yet to read the whole thing myself, I knew if I started looking back I’d never get to the end, so now I have a rough outline I’m going to go back over and colour it in.

For the moment however I’m taking a nice week off so I can view my story with fresh perspective. I’m going to brave the bug infested garden and enjoy the rare glorious British weather with a good book that someone else has written.

(Friendly tip to all, don’t try to read LCD screens in sunlight your retinas will never feel the same again.)