Flash Fiction And A Full-Length Novel (Almost)

Happy December, everybody! If you’re not feeling festive enough yet, here, have a picture of Professor Flitwick decorating a Christmas tree.

Christmas at HogwartsImage credit: http://soulstratum.tumblr.com/post/133631891343

I’m a little late with this post. I’d planned to have it up at the end of November, as I’ve noticed there’s a nice little pattern going of around one blog update per month (emphasis is strongly on ‘little’ there). But alas, it wasn’t to be – you’ll probably see why when you reach the end of the post (*cough* NaNoWriMo *cough*).

Anyway, here’s a bit of an update about what’s been happening in my little writing world. :)

Seizure Online

Last month, I was lucky enough to have a piece of flash fiction published with Seizure, an online writing hub that I absolutely love. Their excellent Flashers project features a new piece of bite-sized fiction every week, each of which is accompanied by a custom illustration. Having been a fan of Flashers ever since I discovered it a couple of years ago, you can imagine how excited I was to hear that my submission had been chosen for publication and illustration! You should have seen the cheesy grin on my face as I opened the email and saw the phrase ‘would like to publish’.

Anyway, my piece is called Up High. Click through to give it a read – it’ll only take a minute or two. And be sure to feast your eyes on the absolutely gorgeous illustration by talented artist Sam Paine. The sea, the sky, the blanket – everything about it perfectly encapsulates the feel of the piece. Huge thanks must go to both Seizure and Sam!

Illustration courtesy of the talented Illustration courtesy of Sam Paine via Seizure Online.

Writer’s Edit

November was a super exciting month for Writer’s Edit: on the 18th we launched our newest anthologyKindling Volume II! I was lucky enough to be involved in the process of producing Kindling II, and I have to say that even just as its humble proofreader, I’m so proud of the final result. It’s such a beautiful book – the pieces within are truly compelling and inspiring, the cover is gorgeous, and Helen, Kyra and the rest of the editorial team did a seriously amazing job putting it together.

KindlingIsn’t she lovely?! That’s Kindling II on the left, accompanied by her equally beautiful sister.
Photo courtesy of Yasmin Scheuerer via Writer’s Edit.

If you want to see what all the fuss is about (trust me, you want to), head over to the Writer’s Edit store, where there’s currently a sale on both volumes of Kindling.

While you’re over at Writer’s Edit, you might catch a glimpse of my latest article: last month, I delved into what it takes to write compelling character backstories in a Complete Guide to Creating Backstory in Speculative Fiction. I was inspired by a world-building workshop I attended at the National Young Writers Festival back in October, where there was some interesting chat about backstory: what it is, why it’s so important in sci-fi and fantasy, how much you should include and which parts you should leave out. I learned a lot myself while writing the article, so hopefully you will too.

Back in October, I also wrote something we like to call the Essential NaNoWriMo Survival Guide: a comprehensive, detailed guide to getting through the madness that is National Novel Writing Month. For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is an annual challenge in which writers from all around the world attempt to write 50,000 words in the month of November. (It sounds crazy; that’s because it is.) I really enjoyed writing this article, and the more I looked into NaNoWriMo, the more intrigued I became… And so, a mere few days before November arrived, I decided to undertake the NaNoWriMo challenge myself alongside the wonderful women I work with at Writer’s Edit!

Writer's EditThree of my favourite ladies! L-R: Me, Bernadette, Kyra and Helen at the Kindling II launch.
Photo courtesy of Yasmin Scheuerer via Writer’s Edit.

NaNoWriMo

So yeah, November was pretty crazy…

For the last couple of months, I’d had the vague beginnings of a story idea floating around in my head, but the most I’d done to act on it was to decide it was likely going to be Young Adult fantasy, and to write ~1200 words of random description. So when the idea of doing National Novel Writing Month came along, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to actually make a start. The fact that Helen was also working on YA fantasy definitely encouraged me as well – and so, along with Kyra and Bernadette, we officially became WriMos!

I’ve never written anything longer than a short story before, so to commit to writing an entire novel was a huge deal for me. To commit to writing it in a single month was an even bigger undertaking! But I had the support and comradeship of the Writer’s Edit girls to bolster me, so on the 1st of November I got to work, sketching out as many plans as I could and jumping into the writing process in earnest.

I got off to a good start, and for the first half of November I kicked along on par with the minimum 1667 words per day. Despite the minor setback of spilling an entire mug of tea over my laptop one day, and waiting with bated breath to see whether it would still work after drying out, I was going really well.

NaNoWriMoThe allure of the blank page is made so much stronger by NaNoWriMo! Image credit: Kaboompics.

And then the halfway point hit…

Around the 14th, I most inconveniently developed a ridiculously large and painful blister, smack-bang in the middle of my right palm. Reduced to Jaime Lannister-ing my way around for several days, my momentum slowed considerably. And even when the blister started to heal and I could type two-handed again, I still found myself stuck.

I realised I really hadn’t done enough planning for the sort of story I was trying to write. I needed to take my own advice about doing some serious world-building, for a start; I also needed to develop my characters more, and make some concrete decisions about where the plot was going. All these realisations brought me to a virtual standstill, and I got reallfar behind.

But in my own NaNoWriMo Survival Guide, I’d written about allowing yourself to be flexible, and keeping your own personal goals and circumstances in mind. Taking into account my lack of time to plan, my relatively busy month and my overall desire to simply make a start and commit to a project, I decided to reevaluate my original 50,000-word target. By the time I started playing catch-ups, I’d settled on a much more modest goal of reaching 30,000 words by the end of the month. And I’m pleased to say that by 11pm on the 30th of November, I’d hit 30,056 words!

While this is nowhere near the official NaNoWriMo goal or the length of a completed novel, I’m still excited by my progress. If someone had told me at the start of the year that I’d have written at least 30,000 words of a novel by the end of it, I’d have laughed in their face. But now I know I can do it: I am capable of working on a big, sustained project, and what’s more, I’m now especially motivated to do so. With the awesome start NaNoWriMo has given me, I’m determined to keep plugging away until I have a complete first draft of the novel, hopefully by early next year.

As for the book itself… All I can really tell you is that it’s about a perfumer’s daughter, and that it’s somehow morphed its way into a trilogy in my head. Three books to plan and write? That’s not too ambitious at all, right?

I suppose only time will tell.

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Conversation, Conflict, the Cold and the Countryside

Happy Monday, readers and writers and random passers-by! I’ve got a little round-up today of the work I’ve recently had published online, so if you’re in the mood for some writing advice, a virtual trip to the countryside, or a short musing you can read while waiting for the kettle to boil – read on.

Phantasmagoria

I’m so excited to have a small piece featured in Edition Five of Phantasmagoria! A vibrant online space full of fiction, poetry, art, rants and reviews, it’s often described as a ‘living magazine’, which I really like.

My piece falls into an interesting category called ‘From The Brainbox’, which Phantasmagoria itself describes best:

We are all writers here, we know what it is like to have bits of brain lying around our apartments in notepads, on the back of receipts, tucked away in that ‘Memo’ section of our phone, on sticky notes, on limbs. Floating sentences and paragraphs paste their way across a writer’s personal landscape. This is what we want for From The Brainbox. We want raw, unpolished pieces of peoples’ lives. You submit that Word document you opened and poured your heart into about ‘that’ person. You submit that piece of paper with that sentence you thought was kind of okay. You submit tiny portions of yourself and we welcome them with open arms. This is our great experiment – this is our patchwork quilt of modern humanity.

I stumbled across this description while browsing through Phantasmagoria one day and it immediately resonated with me. At the moment, I’m not the sort of writer who has a big, sustained project at which I’m chipping away. I’m more the type with a Notes app full of sentences or fleeting thoughts saved to my phone at random intervals; the type with a handful of half-written pieces saved in Word docs on my computer.

The day before I read about ‘From The Brainbox’, it just so happened that I’d taken down some late-night ramblings in my phone about England and warmth and the weather and the way it affects people. (That sort of thing has been playing on my mind a little lately – I wrote a post about it last month.)

Anyway, I thought I may as well try to turn my ramblings into something I could submit to Phantasmagoria. I ended up with a little piece called ‘Sunflower’ and – lo and behold – it was selected to be featured in Edition Five, which went live today! Head over and check it out – the Phantas team has done a wonderful job of putting together a diverse array of pieces from emerging writers.

phantasmagoria

Lily Magazine

The story of how I came to be involved with Lily Magazine is kind of similar to what I just talked about with Phantasmagoria. Chance and timing are wonderful things sometimes, aren’t they?

You may remember my post from a few months back about my favourite countryside Instagram accounts. Shortly after I posted it, I noticed a submissions call-out from Lily Magazine, a lovely online mag about all the best aspects of country life. While I didn’t have anything like a tree-change story or a personal musing on country life to contribute, I did think that perhaps a variation on my Instagram piece might fit well with the magazine and its audience.

After emailing back and forth for a while with Tina, Lily’s founder and the loveliest lady you can imagine, we agreed that I would develop a little column called ‘Our Favourite Country Instagrammers’, which went live at the start of October! Each month, the column will feature an Instagram account full of gorgeous countryside images, with a few words about who runs the account and what you’ll find on there.

lily magazineImage via Lily Magazine.

Writer’s Edit

I am so enjoying working on regular articles for my beloved Writer’s Edit! My latest pieces are all about how to write conflict and conversation in your fiction.

How To Master Conflict In Young Adult Fiction looks at the important role conflict plays in the YA genre, offering guidance on how to work conflict naturally and effectively into your story.

5 Golden Rules For Writing Authentic Dialogue navigates the often tricky territory of dialogue in fiction, laying down five guidelines to follow when writing speech and conversation for your characters.

I learned quite a lot myself while researching and writing both of these, so do check them out if you’re a YA author in need of a few tips, or if you’re struggling with writing effective dialogue. I hope you find them helpful!

writer's editImage via Kaboompics.