Always telling stories

I have always loved telling stories. From telling anecdotes of terrible customers at work to writing out fantastical ideas that I always dream of doing something with one day to share them with the world. There’s just something so incredible of creating a world in your head, of thinking up characters and descriptions that exist only in your imagination. There’s something special about that infinite space, and then looking at either a blank notebook or a blank word document with the cursor blinking, full of possibilities. Seeing the physical evidence of someone’s creativity is always astounding, but with books it’s even more so as the only materials the writer used were a combination of 26 letters. It’s probably why I love reading fantasy, just to see how other writer’s minds work and the things that they can imagine and create, see where they’ve been inspired and how they, in turn, can inspire me.

I’ve known that I want to one day write books for a very, very long time. In past posts I’ve gone into detail about some of my ‘early’ work, which included a very short play which was essentially Scooby Doo with a retriever (there was a graveyard, a vampire, and a witch), along with two pieces of fiction, a duology if you will, that was inspired by my seven-year-old-self’s crush who ended up moving to another country, which is what the second book deals with. Such heartbreak at such a young age, but if I remember correctly the only reason I liked him was because he was a fast runner, which probably isn’t the best thing to start a relationship for.

dont-do-it.gif

itstartsatmidnight

So clearly I had a love for stories and imaginations as a child, but when thinking back I remember all the ways I loved stories. It seems child-me didn’t quite understand the very important difference between telling something as a story and telling a story as if it were a truth. AKA child-me lied about a lot of things, but didn’t think of them as lies, more as ‘stories’.

When I think back, a few of these little ‘stories’ come to mind, all that occurred in primary school up to the age of about nine or ten. There are minor ones, such as telling a girl that I had seen a unicorn or a friend that I had been taken from a tribe of magical warriors (though that one I blame on my brother, who I distinctly remember telling me that I was adopted in probably the most imaginative tale ever, which included our parents travelling to a tribe in the wilderness and doing some ritual in order to get me). But the one that spiralled entirely out of control, and which still makes me smile to this day, was the story that my cat had had kittens.

My cat, of course, hadn’t had kittens. Bundle was, in fact, neutered, and so would never have kittens ever, but little me (I’m pretty sure I was in Reception or Year One, so maybe five or six years old) really liked the idea of my cat having kittens. So much so, that I imagined how great it would be if Bundle had actually had kittens. All I can remember is telling a few of my friends and perhaps even my teacher, the ever-wonderful Mrs Hill – she was involved in another one of my story-related obsessions, in which I took home a lot of books from the school library, but didn’t want to give them back, and so soon collected a box-full of books, which my Mum discovered, but luckily Mrs Hill didn’t tell me off. Apparently stealing is not ok, but when it could demonstrate a child’s love of reading there isn’t much of a punishment.

giphy-8.gif

giphy

Back to the cat. So all I remember is telling a few people that my cat had had kittens, the dream of any five-maybe-six year old girl. After that I don’t remember much at all, apart from what I’ve since been told by my Mum and brother. Apparently the news of kittens spread through the primary school like wildfire, a primary school that my older brother still attended at this time, possibly in his final year there before secondary school. He found out about our cat supposedly having kittens when one of his friends asked if the kittens were for sale. Next thing I know, my Mum is telling me that it’s wrong to lie after people kept enquiring after our kittens. I’m pretty sure little-me was as confused as everyone else – I mean, after all, it had been a story, and was it really my fault that other people couldn’t recognise such excellent creativity and imagination?

It’s safe to say that the story-telling, or ‘lying’ as others called it, died down after that, and by the time I reached secondary school I understood the importance of clarifying to the mere mortals when I was telling a story.

My only regret? That I threw away the original manuscripts for those two books I wrote about my heartbreak over this boy. Man, would I love to be able to read them now. That would be some serious entertainment right there – though I seem to remember in the second one that he moved to Australia and was bitten by a black widow spider, because apparently little-me was a spiteful so-and-so.

 

NaNoWriMo 2016

Last year I did something crazy, and that was signing up to NaNoWriMo saying that I was going to write a whole novel in a month. For those new to the concept, National Novel Writing Month has been running for several years now, pushed on by its loyal and growing community of crazy wannabe writers who attempt this ridiculous, but wonderful, challenge. If you’re interested in my experience, check out my blog post on it.

What I loved about NaNo was the encouragement to just sit down and make time to write every single day. The focus was not on writing a masterpiece, it was on writing those one thousand, six hundred and something words a day. It wasn’t about going back over what you’d written previously and editing it until it was somewhat satisfactory. It was about reaching that target, whether you had planned out a story from start to end or you were just making it up as you went along (I was the latter half). Instead of spending ages staring at one sentence because it didn’t feel quite right, or looking up synonyms for words, or scrolling through baby name websites for that perfect name (all of which I frequently do), I simply sat down and wrote. Who cares if my sentence uses the same word twice or the language is a bit simplistic or if I call my main character John Smith? Creating a word of genius wasn’t the point of NaNo, and I loved that more than anything. It takes the pressure off of you, and brings you back to the core reason for doing this in the first place – the sheer love of writing and storytelling.

spn-cas-let-me-tell-you-my-story

ent.life

As soon as November ended last year, I said I couldn’t wait until next year. That feeling hasn’t changed – I am desperate to get back to that mindset of just writing whenever I can, and making the time to do it. Yet last year I made the joke that, despite having several essays, I was going to take on the challenge. It seems that this year, my final year of university, the deadlines I have for the next month, let alone the next year, are too many to manage alongside NaNo.

It is so with a very heavy heart, I’m announcing that I will not be participating in NaNo 2017. Writing 50,000 words for fun is just not going to be possible alongside dissertation reading/planning/writing, midterm assignments, reading for modules – you get the idea. Although it would be very easy for everyone to come up with an excuse for why they don’t have the time to write a novel in a month (I’d be concerned if you thought you had lots of time to get that done with no issues), for me it’s the added stress and pressure from doing well in my final year of university. I know that if I decide to take on NaNo, it will become something that it isn’t supposed to be – a source of stress, anxiety, and just plain not fun. And I don’t want writing to become that. I need writing as my outlet (Exhibit A: what you’re reading now. Exhibit B: the fact I have two blogs. TWO. As if managing one wasn’t enough).

TravisWallCrazy.gif

However, it isn’t all bad news. Instead of completely abandoning all hope of NaNo, I’ve decided to revisit what I wrote last year – which I still quite like, and have since had many ideas on how to extend and improve it, including a follow up novel – I’m ambitious (read: hopeful). Instead of writing a completely new novel, I’m going to go back to last year’s attempt and try to rework it. This includes changing the voice of the book, which was originally written in first person and, because I’ve had an idea, I’m going to change it to third person. I’m also going to change certain characters, certain scenes that I rushed through to reach the word count, and basically do everything that NaNo doesn’t. I’m going to edit, polish, tidy up all those terrible sentences, and hopefully create something I’m truly proud of.

NaNo 2016 forced me into writing a novel idea that I loved within a month. This year, I’m going to take that novel and make it shine. Or, at least, I’m going to try. Uni might be a hell of a lot more work this year, but it isn’t going to stop me from writing. Or, well, editing, I suppose.

Internship at Legend Press

In the past year or so, I’ve come to the realisation that the only kind of journalism I’m interested in are book and music reviews – which you can’t really make a career out of straight away and live off. They’re both competitive, and I probably wouldn’t be able to focus solely on them until much much later on. So I had a bit of a life evaluation, or more like a think about what I want to do with my life career wise, and of course I kept coming back to the ultimate dream of being an author. I love books, so it made sense that I should go into a career about books – and this is where publishing comes in.

I have very little knowledge about the publishing industry, especially as all of my experience is in the journalism sector. So began the panic earlier this year of writing to as many publishers as possible practically begging them to let me follow them around for a couple weeks (meaning work shadowing, not stalking). I made a long post previously about putting yourself out there, and this is basically what I was thinking about whilst writing it. After a few replies saying not possible, and one panicked 15 minute conversation where I was offered a placement on a week that I was away in France, I finally had an offer I could accept – and that’s where I’ve been for the past two weeks.

tumblr.com

I was mainly in editorial in a very small publishing house – there were only six or seven people in the office every day, and on my last day there were just three of them due to holidays – so I was able to have an insight into several different areas. I was reading through manuscripts, proof reading, compiling many different spreadsheets for Sales, and several other jobs. I’m almost tempted to write ‘completed’ on my reading challenge for this year with the amount of books I had to skim through over the past two weeks. In my first week, I read at least two manuscripts a day, but as it was mainly skim reading just to get a gist of the plot and writing style, that probably doesn’t count.

There were classic, stereotypical intern moments, such as being sent out on an errand, sorting out the bookcases in the office, and having lunch at itsu most days. There were also jobs I didn’t think I’d be given, such as going through competition entries and assessing writing.

the-toast.net

At this current moment in time, I’m sitting in a towel having just had a shower and have about forty minutes before I have to head off to work (no rest for the wicked), and am drawing a serious mind blank on what else to say about these two weeks. So I’ll end with this: I’m so happy I managed to secure the internship, and although it was unpaid it was fantastic experience that I will very proudly add to my CV. I’ve learned so much about the industry, met some fantastic people, and definitely have more of an idea of what I want to go into.

On Being Happy: WORDS

I was tempted to write about writing, or about books, and I probably will go into those two subjects in more detail later on (and if you’re desperate to read more about books, then head over to my other blog alwayslovetoreadalot). But I decided let’s go to the heart of the matter and what makes up literature: words.

dailytoa.st

To mark the anniversary of 400 years since Shakespeare’s death, I attended a late night at the British Library and although we were celebrating the great bard, one particular phrase that caught my attention was ‘a love of words’. Because really, I have a serious love for words. The idea that a combination of words helps you tell stories is just fascinating when you take a step back from it all, and, really, we tell stories every time someone sings, writes a book, speaks to a friend – the list just goes on.

I adore stories, hence my love for books, but I love telling stories, hence my dream of being an author. Even day-to-day anecdotes are fantastic: setting the scene, raising the tension, hitting the punchline, and wrapping everything up in a satisfying package. We’ve told stories since the first human being spoke, and we haven’t stopped since.

tumblr

I started writing down some of my favourite words since reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara (which, if you haven’t read by now, you really should). She packed that book with so many beautiful words that just fit so perfectly into her narrative that I’m pretty sure it gives euphoria to every word-lover out there. So now it’s time for a truly exciting blog post where I tell you my favourite words. I can practically feel your excitement from here.

First of: Specificities. Just say it aloud. Specificities. Now if that isn’t a fun word to say, I don’t know what is. All that sibilance is just, ah, so spectacular.

Ceaselessly. Oh yeah, more ‘ss’ sounds. It also reminds me of Great Gatsby, so what’s not to love?

Whimsical. I like how on the ‘whim’ you get a small smile on your face. It also has that beautiful arc, like going over a hill – up for the ‘whim’ and back down again from ‘sical’. Music in words, people, it exists and it’s beautiful. Feel the beauty.

giphy.com

Placidly is another, and I’m pretty sure I just like these words because they’re fun to say. With the end of this one, there are just too many letters to sound out. The ‘ss’ sound, the emphasis on the ‘d’ sound, and then the ‘ly’. Such fun.

Taint. Don’t ask me why. I think it’s something to do with the overlapping ‘t’ sound.

Thither. Swivel. Discombobulated. There are just so many words. And I love them all.

I think it’s also safe to say that essay and exam season is making my brain slowly melt, until I’m just a mess of a human blathering on about words and how fun they are to say. Here’s hoping for better content come June.

onehallyu

But seriously, what are your favourite words? Don’t be shy, we’re all non-judgemental here. I’m hoping anyone who can read to the end of this post isn’t judgemental at all. (Please don’t judge me)

It’s a Resolution

Yep, it’s that time of year again. Time to look back at last years resolutions that I wrote down and to make some new ones.

2015 was an interesting year for me; survived first year, got a new job, met wonderful people, had surgery (again), moved to Vauxhall, also moved to Hove/Brighton area – and I wrapped it all up on New Year’s Eve watching the London fireworks from just outside my flat with my friends.

Right, let’s see what I wanted last year.

  1. Have a great first year – academically and socially.

Honestly? I did. I passed the year, made wonderful friends, and since starting second year have made even more. It goes to show that if you make an effort to get out there and are friendly, you’re bound to meet some fantastic people.

2. Do more writing and DO something about it.

Yes, past self, I done did. Now a consistent writer for The London Economic, more updated on now two blogs, and I’ve contacted agents left, right, and centre. Yes, I got rejected time and again, but I tried, and I’ll try again. I also participated in NaNoWriMo, and rekindled my love of writing.

3. Be more outgoing. 

Well, that depends on your definition (which I notice, past self, that you did not include – for shame). I’ve tried clubbing a few more times (still prefer a nice chat in a pub with food), but I have been able to be the first one to start conversations and go around chatting to as many people as possible like I’m collecting cards for something.

http://www.hercampus.com

…So, that was 2015. Moving onwards.

  1. Be happy, be positive, keep going

It’s hard to try and not regret anything, but that’s what I want to do. I don’t want to just pretend to be happy when I’m not for other people’s sake.

https://www.tumblr.com/search/don’t%20worry%20be%20happy%20gif

2. As hard as it may be, write more and contact more agents. 

Rejections, here I come. If you don’t try, you can’t succeed and all that. 

http://www.imgur.com

3. Now for a book challenge: read 50. 

One down, 49 to go.

There’s a theme this year and that’s to keep going. A piece of advice my Mum gave me this year: don’t put yourself down, everyone else will do that for you. Ignore the haters, future self, you’ve got this.

Good luck, you’re going to need it.

good-luck-gif

Guide to University: subject disparity

The first thing you’re asked at university is: what are you studying. It’s not surprising, really, if you think about. People want to know what subject has driven you to this point and whether or not it’s the same as theirs. Unfortunately, the subject you pick to study defines you in ways you may not like. For example, people who study medicine are clever, those who study physics are astronomically clever but never get dates, those who study philosophy are pretentious, english students just like reading old books, history students are all mainly male – same goes for war studies, etc, etc, etc.

Thankfully, in this day and age, these immediate presumptions about subjects, these ridiculous stereotypes that are more false than true, are slowly dying out. Still, the amount of times I encounter them are ridiculous.

‘Classical Studies with English’ is the full title of my degree and, honestly, I probably don’t help matters with my explanation of it. As soon as I finish saying the title, I’m met with blank stares and crinkled brows, so I quickly clarify with ‘basically, lots of books’. In all honesty, there are a ton of books that I have to read, so that’s not a lie, but there is so much more to it. It’s about learning language, culture, the context of literature, how to write well – and that’s just the English side of the course. In my Classics side, I’ve learned about ancient history, philosophy, literature, archaeology, language – so many different areas, it’s a surprise it all fits into one degree. Yet, when I’m asked about Classics, my short answer normally starts with ‘ancient greece and rome’ then goes to ‘do you know Homer?’ and, finally, ‘have you seen the film Troy?’. It’s pretty dire.

http://vampirecircus.tumblr.com/

So there are my faults and failings for all the world to see, but it could be worse – and I’m doing my best to change that. However, not everyone is of the same mind and there is one thing that helps cause this: contact hours. Contact hours are the amount of hours you’re at university each week – and by that, I mean the hours of lectures and seminars you have, not the hours you’re at university having a coffee or studying in the library. Contact hours vary considerably between subjects, and the reason for this is that some subjects need more teaching, whereas others require more time for individual work and research. Take physics or maths, for example. The quickest way to learn is to have lots of lectures and seminars, as it would be pretty difficult for students to be just given a textbook and sent on their way. However, when you get subjects like English, students need time to actually read the books, research critics, write essays etc etc. Despite knowing this, most people – students included – still make presumptions on the difficulty of your degree based on your contact hours.

At this stage, I’d just like to remind you that – at least in the UK – every student pays the same amount. Whether you have a lot of contact hours or very few, each student pays £9,000 a year.

http://talentegg.ca/incubator/2015/03/17/12-thoughts-grad-job-hunting-illustrated-gifs/

I live with two medical students, one of them being my brother (but I’ll save that topic for a different post). My brother is in his final year, and the other one is in their third, so they both are in hospital from early in the morning to at least late afternoon Monday-Friday. This makes perfect sense; they’re training to be doctors, to help heal people, so they need practice and experience rather than just staring at a book all the time. I, however, only have 8 contact hours a week. This is supposedly so that I have enough time out of lectures to read all the material set and write my essays etc, but there are some weeks where it doesn’t feel like enough time at all. One week, I had two essays to write, three books to read, and 2 critical papers to study for every module. It’s tough. Those who say (insert subject name here eg. Classics) is an easy degree are idiots. Each and every degree is difficult, and you get as much out of it as you put in.

To the outsider, it doesn’t look like I work as hard as my room mates. When they come back from a day at hospital to see me reading on the sofa having had only one lecture that day, I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that they make comments about how ‘easy’ my degree is compared to theirs. I mean, look at how much they work! I couldn’t possibly understand how difficult their degree is. And, one of my favourite comments, ‘reading isn’t work’. You can imagine my frustration at a house party where I was the only one not studying medicine to hear my room mate say ‘Eleanor’s work this week is to read Frankenstein. Man, I wish that was what I had to do! That isn’t work!’.

Ok, so I thoroughly enjoyed reading Frankenstein, but that’s beside the point.

http://jzxproject.com/

The issue here is that there are disparities among subjects. In all honesty, I would love to have more contact hours a week and actually feel like all my money is going somewhere. But the fact people are so quick to jump to conclusions is really quite upsetting. There are weeks when I’m set books that I do not want to read, or books where I think there is no chance I’ll be able to finish unless I don’t do anything but read. One week, for just one module, I had to read Joyce’s Ulysses. People take months to read that book, let alone a week! On top of that, I had to prepare short paragraphs answering questions on the book, and that was just for one module. For my others I had to read certain chapters or prepare essay questions, draft an essay and critique someone’s assignment due in for that week. Some weeks are a nightmare, other weeks are a dream. Obviously I wouldn’t change it for anything, I absolutely adore my degree, but the amount of times I’ve had to defend it seem ridiculous. When someone says ‘I wish all I had to do was read ___’, I say ‘well why don’t you?’. You pick your degree, I pick mine. If you’re going to be the person that complains, then do a different degree.

It’s an unfortunate fact of university, I’m afraid. My advice? Stand your ground, don’t be ashamed, and ignore the haters.

Cheezburger haters gonna hate pony haters

http://giphy.com/gifs/cheezburger-haters-pony-lXiRKeGZeOyEpRHkk

NaNoWriMo

As I mentioned last month, I tackled ‘NaNoWriMo’ (NaNo) this year. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, NaNo is National Novel Writing Month where, for the month of Novemeber, you try to write a novel.

As you can imagine, this is extremely difficult. To ‘win’ NaNo, you have to reach 50,000 words – and, let me tell you, that is a lot of words for 30 days. When you break it down, you have to write 1,667 words every day in order to reach the target. I, however, decided before writing that my goal was to have fun (due to university and work) and I set a personal target of 25k. I’ve never attempted NaNo before, but apparently this year was the year despite the fact that I have more work than ever and a new part-time job which I do all weekend every weekend.

It’s been kinda busy.

Not only did I have university work and my part-time job to contend with, but the past month I’ve been writing a lot for TLE and attending events (head on over to my portfolio if you’re interested plug plug plug plug). It’s safe to say that out of every year to do NaNo, this wasn’t the best one to choose. Then again, with that attitude, I’m sure I would have never started. The ‘might as well’ and ‘what’s the worst that can happen’ attitude worked like a dream.

The interesting thing about NaNo is that the main advice given is ‘keep going’. It doesn’t matter if what you’ve just written is absolute crap, you just have to keep writing and hit that word count. It gives people permission to just write without worrying that they’re not the next J.K Rowling. When I wrote for NaNo, it was with a completely different mindset than what I write for my creative writing class this term. For class I’m agonising over every word, changing my ideas and reworking sentences over until they have some kind of cadence or rhythm. For NaNo, I would just sit down and write whatever came to mind. Every now and then I would deicide ‘this is boring’ and change the scene entirely – one moment in particular that I remember is two people having a conversation, then because I didn’t know where to go from that I set everything on fire. Literally. The two people began arguing and ended up running for their lives. It was great.

Although I had several blocks during the month of not writing at all, I actually managed to get to 30k by the end of November – which I was ridiculously happy with. Not only that, but I actually like my story – a miracle in itself. I’m surprised to find that I’m looking forward to going back to it and expanding areas to explore some characters that I brushed over in my mad dash to reach my word count. It’s one of the first times I’ve written a story where I’ve actually felt seriously invested in my characters and their lives – which might seem strange, seeing as I’ve written hundreds and thousands (not even a slight exaggeration there) of story ideas. Although in the past I’ve liked my characters before, NaNo pushed me to keep writing and, when you can’t think of any action, you’re undoubtedly going to have some scenes where all you have is a character to develop. What I didn’t expect is for my secondary characters to take over the novel, up until the point where I kind of wanted to make it multi-perspective just so I could live in their heads for a bit.

So. NaNo has taught me a lot of things to do with writing and organisation and new responses to the question ‘how are you’ with gems such as ‘not bad, just killed some characters, how are you?’ among a tonne of other things. The best thing, I think, I’ve discovered is that even when I think that I can’t do anything more and that I’m knackered to the point that I just want to sleep for three days, I can still push myself to take on new things.

It’s been fun, NaNo. I’ll see you next year.