Saturday, 30 November 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013

Just popped in to say... I completed NaNoWriMo! Third year in a row :)

50,295 words to be precise.

It's been a brilliant exercise in discipline and writing freely.

Tomorrow will be spent in bed with one of the books on my "To Be Read" list. Oh the luxury... :)

On Monday, I shall resume editing my novel. I can't wait to get stuck back in!

I hope everyone's getting on OK, with their writing or otherwise.

Take care
Catherine x


Thursday, 31 October 2013

It's finally here...

So this year, I forbade myself to take part in NaNoWriMo.

  • You're 20k away from the end of your novel. Focus, Catherine!
  • You have dozens of short stories waiting to be polished and sent off.
  • You have a writing class on Tuesdays to keep up with.
  • You have a writing group on Thursdays to keep up with!

But I couldnae resist. Sign me up!

Do you know the only reason I'm embarking on this madness?

Because... I've FINALLY finished my A to Z of Writing Warm-Ups PDF! Remember, back in April, doing the A to Z Blogging Challenge? I wrote 26 blog posts, with warm-ups for each letter of the alphabet.

It included:

  • 26 photo prompts
  • 26 freewriting exercises
  • 26 mind map exercises
  • 79 (I know!) sentence starts

In total, 157 writing prompts. I'm going to use them every day for NaNoWrimo. It's going to be a stream of consciousness novel, so there is no plotting or outlining. It's more of a warm-up for my other writing tasks, with the benefit of obtaining 50% off Scrivener if I reach the 50k (as good a reason as any to sign up, in my opinion).

So, I give you... my Writing Warm-Ups of 2013. Click here to open it and remember to save it on to your computer!

Who else is taking part?

Take care
Catherine x ◦

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Life in Pictures 30th October 2013 #WordlessWednesday

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Sunday, 27 October 2013

Writing is a dog's life, but the only life worth living.

Gustave Flaubert

Helloooooo, how are you all getting on?

To supplement my lovely writers group, I enrolled in a writing class at Glasgow Uni, taught by Alan McMunnigall. It's great. Every Tuesday, I go along and we critique a couple of student pieces and focus on various techniques used in writing. The one I'm particularly interested in is “close narration”, which is what I use in my novel. Alan recommended this book to us:

There are two chapters on Gustave Flaubert, whom Wood thinks novelists should thank for modern narrative the way poets should thank spring! To this end, I downloaded Madame Bovary (free on the Kindle, by the way), and found it a thoroughly enjoyable read.

My novel rewrite is sitting at 67,260 words. I'm perilously close to where I want to be (compared to where I was, at least. I'm under no illusion as to how much work still needs to be done). I'm keen to impose what I've learned in class, but also hesitant in case it ends up reading like a cluster of creative writing exercises. As long as I let my characters continue to do the talking, I'm hopeful it will read well.

Meanwhile, I've been gladly, irrationally distracting myself with short stories, writing class and even my food blog, in some kind of Bampot drill in avoidance. I'm currently reading “A Disaffection”, by James Kelman and this passage sums me up to a T:

'But there was little to trust in reason. Fuck that for a racket. A method of approaching the thing, perhaps, was to say he had been subconsciously avoiding all thought on the subject because of a growing awareness that it could prove momentous, all too fucking momentous.'

In other words, I'm shiting myself about what to do with it once it's all done, dusted and wrapped up in a bow, ready to be subject to other people's scrutiny. I'm not one to take the nip at a critique, I promise you I'm not. But this... this piece on its third rewrite has been the work of many a weekend, lunch break, spare hour and post-work library trip for over a year. I'm filled with the crippling self-doubt and paranoia you'd expect any author to have at this stage.

On a lighter note, I've been obsessed with the New Yorker Fiction podcast series of late. Have you heard it? An author reads the work of another author and they discuss the work with the New Yorker fiction editor, Deborah Treisman. I thoroughly recommend the following podcasts: 
  • Roddy Doyle reading "Christmas Eve", by Maeve Brennan
  • Monica Ali reading Joshua Ferris's story "The Dinner Party"
  • David Means reading "Chef's House" by Raymond Carver

You. Are. Welcome.

So what's new with you? Give me all your gossip.

Take care
Catherine x


Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Life in Pictures 23rd October 2013 #WordlessWednesday

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Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Life in Pictures 9th October 2013 #WordlessWednesday

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Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Scottish Book Trust Residencies & Opportunities seminar

Last week, I was lucky enough to attend the Scottish BookTrust: Residencies & Opportunities seminar in Edinburgh, having spotted it on the Creative Scotland Opportunities section.

Maybe I'm the only person in the world to have thought this... *embarrassing admission ahead* but I assumed the purpose of a writing residency was for the writer to go to a specific place to immerse themselves in that environment; to absorb their surroundings, then pour said findings into their art.

My personal fantasy had me take a residency in the attic of some glorious sea view hotel, where I would wander the scenic town, luxurious corridors and staff areas by day, then scribble by night. I used to be a chambermaid, you see, and there's definitely a book of hotel-based scandal somewhere in me.

I digress. Contrary to my preconceived notions, residencies do not exist as "setting" research for your creative endeavours. Not exclusively, anyway. The panel of speakers at the seminar had taken up residencies in a mens prison, a PR company, a bank, and a sick kids hospital. They weren't there to observe people and take notes. They were there to engage other people. And that is the whole point.

Elspeth Murray was once Writer in Residence at Scottish Widows, where she would hand out "Curious Questions of the Week" cards to employees on their way in to the office, as she wasn’t afforded more than a snippet of their time. What was heartening was that more and more of these employees started filing in the cards. That miniscule gesture made them stop and consider their day, nay, their life, when otherwise they might have simply succumbed to the humdrum.

In my opinion, everyone needs to express themselves. It’s integral to being alive. Properly alive, that is; not just existing. If you don’t express yourself in some way or another you'll fade away.

Gowan Calder spoke of her time as Writer in Residence at a medium-high risk mens prison. I thought to myself 'you've got to have some balls to do that!'. An actress among other things, Gowan was charming and flamboyant as she discussed the work she did with the prisoners, and I could just imagine them all warming to her energy. Full of fun, she told us how they turned the air blue with their creations, which materialised into (aside from much hilarity) tangible results such as a production of a play they'd written, called F**k This for a Game of Soldiers.

Linda Cracknell is halfway through a two year residency with the Sick Kids Friends Foundation, working alongside the wonderful illustrator Cate James. When she spoke of approaching the worried relatives of these poorly kids, asking them if they wanted to write a story together, I thought to myself: 'good grief... you'd need even more balls for that!' At first glance, I don't think I'd have the courage to puncture through that bubble of panic and devastation that is a parent’s concern for their child. That’s because I’m a shitebag and an introvert, but when I think about it further, I begin to consider the temporary reprieve this might bring them: that precious distraction from worry, which is what most families desperately need at times like that.
They also run library workshops for patients and non-patients alike, and have created fun characters out of medical equipment and buzzy bee toys to distract and thrill a group of children while they are getting their weekly arthritis jabs. Amazing.
So what did I learn, apart from how ballsy these ladies are? I learned that the difference they must make to people's lives is incomparable, and makes my former perception of residencies seem utterly selfish. What a riddy!
The plays, the question cards, the storytelling exercises: they are all things that have derived from the blank canvas of the writers' minds. As speakers Sophie Moxon and Julie Amphlett told us: You can’t give a specific job description for a residency.
And neither should you. You can’t hem it in and create boundaries and instruction, no matter how much you crave direction. The purpose of a writing residency is to create; to explore ways to ignite that spark of humanity in people who may not necessarily have a creative nature; to give them that infectious exhilaration from creation that we as writers are well versed in.

It’s not all about the writer utilising these people and places for their own art. It’s about engaging people in a way that makes them glad you exist and makes their own existence different for you having been in it.

That's what I took away from the seminar, at least.

What about the writer? What do they get from it all? How does putting a bit of heart into their life benefit writers in their own creative endeavours?

Do you really have to ask?


Life in Pictures 2nd October 2013 #WordlessWednesday

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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

My Life in Pictures 25th September 2013 #WordlessWednesday

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Wednesday, 18 September 2013

My Life in Pictures 18th September 2013 #WordlessWednesday

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Monday, 16 September 2013

Short stories and reading while writing your novel.

You become a different writer when you approach a short story. When things are not always having to represent other things, you find real human beings begin to cautiously appear on your pages.
Zadie Smith

Novel editing has been put on the back burner slightly this week, as I prepare various short story submissions. I used to worry that the two animals (novels and short stories) shouldn't be tackled simultaneously, but I now believe the occasional short story deviation helps - rather than hinders - my novel writing.

For me, it's like undertaking a quick revision course in craft. Too often, when working on the novel, I find myself getting so immersed; too immersed *starts to lose the meaning of all language...*, and all boundaries/techniques/structure/pace simply blurs into a pile of literary dung. 

In desperation, I abandon everything I've learned and ask myself:

  • Does it sound OK when I read it out loud? 
  • Would I boak at this if I read it in a published novel? 
  • What do the writers group folk have to say about it?

I missed a few writers group sessions in a row, and it had an alarmingly negative effect on my writing confidence. Neither myself or my poor group banked on my codependency issues, I'm sure.

One of the lovely ladies in my group, Clare Hipkiss,  has just published one of seven stories that will comprise her novel: Tales from the Ice Cream Van. This particular story is called Hello Kitty, about an adorable man and wife trying to get their teenage daughter off drugs. So heartbreaking, but very optimistic at the end. Clare could teach us all a lesson in characterisation (I've yet to dislike one of her characters... even the meanies!). Put the kettle on, slow down for a minute, and have a read here.

I deliberately haven't read any novels in over a week, in an experiment to reduce any outside influence in my writing. I'll no doubt give in by the end of the week, but it's been an interesting experiment, despite the reading withdrawals. 

Do you steer clear of reading while writing? Or do you crank up your reading efforts? I've heard so many different opinions on this. What's yours?

Take care
Catherine x

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

My Life in Pictures 11th September 2013 #WordlessWednesday

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Monday, 9 September 2013

Every writer should have their own caravan

At the risk of sounding like your local hairdresser, are you going anywhere nice on your holidays? Have you already been? I'm not long back from a week in the sun. We couldn't choose between the Maldives or Monaco, so opted for my sister's caravan, in Millport.

And it was amazing.

I told myself I wasn't going to write while I was away. Even as I packed my laptop and edits, I went along with my little lie. Nearly got through the whole week, too. On our last afternoon the wind and rain was battering off the caravan (is there a better sound? No. There is not.), Colin was snoozing and I decided to get nice and settled with the laptop, a hot chocolate and cake. Four hours later, I was forced to shut down so we could go for dinner. Don't you love it when you get utterly absorbed like that? The ultimate writing sesh.

I know some people have writing sheds, but can I have a writing caravan, please? One with views like this?

(This was taken on our TWELVE MILE walk around the island *gasp* *wheeze*)

One of the things I was looking most forward to about being away, was all that uninterrupted, unashamed reading time. I took the first two books from this chunky detective series by Caro Ramsay (who chairs my writers group): Absolution and Singing to the Dead. I devoured them in record time. Highly recommended if, like me, you enjoy sinister and disturbing fiction.

Have you all heard about Richard & Judy's "Search for a Bestseller?" I'm a big fan of their book club podcast; I like their taste in books. They're offering a £50k publishing deal (and an invaluable amount of promotion, I can only assume), so if you're writing a debut novel, why don't you enter it (deadline is 1st January 2014, so you've got a wee while yet)? I'm fairly sure I'll be entering it.

Speaking of entering things, there are only 11 days left to submit to the Scottish Book Trust's New Writers Award 2013. I was shortlisted last year, which was a massive confidence boost. I still need to decide what piece to submit this year; I can't decide between sending an extract of my novel or one of my short stories. Can someone make this decision for me? Please?

Anyway, what's your news? Give me all your writing/holiday/general gossip!

Take care
Catherine x

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

My Life in Pictures 4th September 2013 #WordlessWednesday

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