This One Goes Out to all the Lost Words

word count 2

 

Newsflash: Writers love words.

We love reading other people’s words and we love writing our own.  We love choosing them, playing with them, arranging them on the page, rearranging them on the page, agonising over their precise order, and then deleting them again.  We also love counting them. Words may give us our voice, our music, but often it’s adding them up at the end of every day / session / minute that allows us to measure our progress through the creative process:

Twitter 2        Twitter 1

Nothing beats the sense of smug satisfaction you get from setting out to write 500 words and ending up with 2,000.  True, they might not be the finest 2,000 words in the literary history of mankind, but who’s counting?  (Apart from you.)  On the flipside, spending an entire week squeezing out one measly sentence is probably going to leave you feeling a little deflated.  Even if they are the finest seventeen consecutive words ever to issue forth from a biscuit eater’s writer’s brain.   And what makes it even more frustrating is the fact that you had entire scenes churning round in your head before you sat down to write.  Entire chapters…

head and words Why, you could have penned an entire trilogy in the shower this morning, if there was a way to harness the brilliance bouncing round your brain while you lathered up your shampoo. But, as we all know, something happens to the words between your head and your hand.  Between the vivid film playing in your mind and the blank screen waiting on your desk.  The words disappear.  Trickle away to nothing.  Otherwise our word counts would be through the roof every day.

Twitter 3

But what if there was a gadget to count up all those unwritten words too?  The ones that never quite made it onto paper /screen?  Not a Fitbit, so much as a Writbit?  How much better would those biscuit-eating word-drought days seem then?  I might still be on Chapter One, paragraph one, sentence one, but I THOUGHT of loads of words today.  Exactly.  I spy a gap in the market for an enterprising young inventor… Anyone??  In fact, if you could invent one that automatically transferred those thought words onto the page for us (especially the brilliant ones that run for cover at the merest glimpse of a biro) that would be even better.  Thanks awfully.

Number of words in this post?  405

Number of custard creams eaten? 0

#HaTakeThatBiscuitSuckers

 

Advertisements

Putting the ‘No’ into ‘Notebook’

fullsizerender

At the recent SCBWI conference David Almond treated us to a peek inside his crowded notebooks: every page a fabulous cacophony of ink; of bubbled notes and looping arrows; of doodled diagrams and scribblings out.  That, I thought, is what a proper writer’s notebook should look like.

Now, I can scribble, doodle and cross things out with the best of them. Oh yes.  And I’m a black belt in the art of arrow drawing.  But only in ratty old exercise books rescued from the back of a 1970s office stationery cupboard.  Or on a spare page from last year’s diary.  Or a bunch of old envelopes.  Show me the back of a Christmas card and I’m off, scribbling for Britain. But heaven forbid I mess up my lovely notebook collection with a scruffy bunch of still-fermenting ideas. Oh no.  I’m saving them

Which is why I must have been feeling unusually reckless when I packed my writing bag this morning.  When I threw caution to the bitter North wind and slipped in one of my favourite too-nice-to-actually-use A5 beauties…

 

notebook-photo

These ones even have my name on them – if that’s not permission to scrawl I don’t know what is.

 

… It was all going so well. I settled into my train seat, pulled down the fold-out table, reached into my bag for my pencil and notebook… and instead pulled out a wodge of scrap paper (one side already printed on) that I’d brought along ‘just in case’. And then I got to work.  Sorry, notebook.  Maybe next time.

The Twelve Writing Days of Christmas

12 typewriters_LI.jpg

On the first day of Christmas

My true love sent to me

A draft pitch for a trilogy

*

On the second day of Christmas

My true love sent to me

Two words all smudged

And a draft pitch for a trilogy

*

On the third day of Christmas

My true love sent to me

Three chewed pens

Two words all smudged

And a draft pitch for a trilogy

*

On the fourth day of Christmas

My true love sent to me

Four boring verbs

Three chewed pens

Two words all smudged

And a draft pitch for a trilogy

*

On the fifth day of Christmas

My true love sent to me

Five Googled things

Four boring verbs

Three chewed pens

Two words all smudged

And a draft pitch for a trilogy

*

On the sixth day of Christmas

My true love sent to me

Six clichéd sayings

Five Googled things

Four boring verbs

Three chewed pens

Two words all smudged

And a draft pitch for a trilogy

*

On the seventh day of Christmas

My true love sent to me

Seven bodged beginnings

Six clichéd sayings

Five Googled things

Four boring verbs

Three chewed pens

Two words all smudged

And a draft pitch for a trilogy

*

On the eighth day of Christmas

My true love sent to me

Eight crates of biscuits

Seven bodged beginnings

Six clichéd sayings

Five Googled things

Four boring verbs

Three chewed pens

Two words all smudged

And a draft pitch for a trilogy

*

On the ninth day of Christmas

My true love sent to me

Nine agents’ answers

Eight crates of biscuits

Seven bodged beginnings

Six clichéd sayings

Five Googled things

Four boring verbs

Three chewed pens

Two words all smudged

And a draft pitch for a trilogy

*

On the tenth day of Christmas

My true love sent to me

Ten chores a-leaving

Nine agents’ answers

Eight crates of biscuits

Seven bodged beginnings

Six clichéd sayings

Five Googled things

Four boring verbs

Three chewed pens

Two words all smudged

And a draft pitch for a trilogy

*

On the eleventh day of Christmas

My true love sent to me

Eleven types of typo

Ten chores a-leaving

Nine agents’ answers

Eight crates of biscuits

Seven bodged beginnings

Six clichéd sayings

Five Googled things

Four boring verbs

Three chewed pens

Two words all smudged

And a draft pitch for a trilogy

*

On the twelfth day of Christmas

My true love sent to me

Twelve bums a-numbing

Eleven types of typo

Ten chores a-leaving

Nine agents’ answers

Eight crates of biscuits

Seven bodged beginnings

Six clichéd sayings

Five Googled things

Four boring verbs

Three chewed pens

Two words all smudged

And a last pitch for a trilogy

 

Procrastination Bingo

(The Game that Puts the Pro into Procrastination)

Okay, so today’s the day you’re going to finish that chapter / start that new novel /crack on with that poem. Today is DEFINITELY the day.  Only these things can’t be rushed.  Maybe wait until you’ve got a few cups of tea inside you. 

Okay, that’s better.  Time to open up that Word document.  As soon as you’ve checked your Twitter feed, that is.  And updated your Facebook status.  And put the bins out.  Ooh, look, a new recipe for vegan Christmas pudding!

If you’d rather tweezer out your own eyelashes than buckle down to some proper writing then you’ve come to the right place.  Grab yourself a Procrastination Bingo board and get crossing off those boxes.  Heads down, everyone, markers at the ready. Any row to win or all 16 essential tasks for a Full House!

BINGO!

Pro Bingo

 

Land of Fire and Ice and Stories

Just got back from the Iceland Writers Retreat in Reykjavik. Wow! My brain’s still buzzing with the stunning scenery and from meeting so many wonderful writers during my time there.

The retreat offered the perfect mix of writing workshops, delicious food (I’m especially going to miss my breakfast skyr and snacking on chocolate-coated liquorice) and sightseeing, with an extra sprinkling of literary receptions and readings in Reykjavik and beyond.

While I’d love to share the rest of my chocolate liquorice with you (ha! Who am I kidding? It’s mine, all mine), I might have to restrict myself to sharing a few of the unforgettable sights instead…

P1150512

Strokkur, Geysir

P1150392

View from Harpa

P1150415

Hallgrímskirkja

P1150532

Þingvellir

P1150398

Ingólfr Arnarson

P1150476

Gullfoss

P1150380

P1150376

Sólfar by Jón Gunnar Árnason

A huge thank you to Writers News for such a fantastic prize!

Top Five New Year’s Resolutions for the Procrastinating Writer

P1150113.JPG

1. Buy more notebooks – the more beautiful the better. Not that you’ll actually use them for writing in, obviously (that’s what scraps of paper and the back of old envelopes are for) but you owe it to the 57 notebooks you already own. They might get lonely otherwise.

2. Rearrange your writing space. It turns out January’s very own Janus (Roman god of beginnings, doorways and transitions) is a bit of a crafty ‘Changing Rooms’ type of fellow too. Nothing makes him happier than moving desks and bookcases round and creating new storage solutions for overflowing collections of notebooks. Of course I may be confusing him with Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen..

3. Research, research, research. Now, some people come at this all wrong, by letting the writing project dictate the research. All well and good if you want to spend your days in dusty library books about Victorian shoemakers, or endless Google searches on the mating habits of crocodiles, but less good if you’re hankering after a healthy slice of lemon drizzle and a bit of winter sunshine. Why not make this the year you thoroughly research a book about a hapless writer/notebook collector who tours the local cafes feeding his/her face with endless cake and cups of tea before heading off on a round-the-world cruise? Ah yes, I can practically hear the waves lapping against the ship now… *sniffs air* And is that a bestseller in the making I can smell? Oh no, wait, I think it’s lemon drizzle cake.

4. Yes, you guessed it, spend more time on the internet. After all, once you’ve clocked up 4,000 tweets of 15 words each you’ll have written the equivalent of a 60,000 word novel anyway. I make that about 11 tweets a day… Easy! But don’t forget the #MmmLemonDrizzle hashtag.

5. Plan the soundtrack to the film version of your as yet unwritten novel. It really doesn’t do to leave these things to the last minute. (Bet you’re glad you ditched your Victorian shoemaker book now aren’t you?  Good luck finding songs about cobblers with big beards and pocket watches). Don’t forget to watch each YouTube video all the way to the end, just to make sure the timing’s 100 percent accurate. And if you don’t have a scrap of paper or the back of an envelope to hand for jotting down your perfect playlist, you could always pop out for a new notebook…

 

Cover Reveal – ‘Halloween Night: Trick or Treat’

Shut the curtains. Turn off all the lights (except your reading lamp – you’ll need that) and find a nice big cushion to hide behind.  Halloween is about to get a whole lot scarier…

FINAL-Halloween_night_large

“Graveyards, spirits, witchcraft, black cats, candy, and haunted houses. 

Strange things happen on Halloween. All Hallows Eve is the single night where the veil between the living and the dead is opened. And now spirits, monsters, and candy will collide!”

Halloween Night: Trick or Treat (Hocus Pocus & Co) is due for release on 27th October – just in time for the big night – and contains the following spooky MG and YA stories, including my Trick-or-Treating tale, ‘Knock, Knock’:

Big Brother Zombie by Evan Purcell

Give Us Something Good to Eat by Rie Sheridan Rose

Halloween Ritual by Amy Giuffrida

Haunter by Ryan Bartlett

Hello Annie by Tiffany Morris

It’s All a Bunch of Hocus Pocus by Violette Ulalume

Knock, Knock by Jennifer Moore

Ms. Holstein’s Special Halloween Treat by Chad P. Brown

Night of Monsters by Matthew Wilson

Something Good to Eat by Patrick Hueller

The House of Sam Hain by Betty Rocksteady

Sweet Nothing by Julie Hutchings

The Ghost by David N. Smith and Violet Addison

The Peeping Trick-or-Treaters by Kevin Lewis

Tricks and Treats, and Chicken Feet by Shawn Anderson

What Lurks in the Darkness by Kathleen Palm