Why I Started A Bullet Journal

Before I started a bullet journal, I was skeptical that bullet journals would be any use. I thought, how is it any different to any other journal? Surely it’s just an overhyped trend that doesn’t actually work? What’s the point?

So, I tried it for myself!

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Blogger vs WordPress?

Some of you may know that I recently moved my blog from Blogger to WordPress. But what’s the difference? And for those of you looking into starting a blog, which should you use? And why did I decide to move my blog in the first place if it was such a hassle?

Never fear – I am here to explain it all!

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Switching from Blogger to WordPress

Anyone who’s read my blog before may notice a few changes to it… By which I mean, you may notice that it looks completely different, it now has Home, About, and Contact pages, and it has “wordpress” in the URL instead of “blogger”. And making all these changes has been a right hassle!

Moving an established blog from one blogging platform to another is no easy task, no matter how much better the new platform may be. So today I’m going to discuss the complications I’ve been dealing with in switching from Blogger to WordPress, which will explain why I’m going to ask you to bear with me while I continue to adjust to this new platform.

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My First Knitting Project

Having learned to knit in the past few months, I thought it would be really cool to knit myself a hat to match my favourite red scarf. And since this will be my first finished knitting project, I thought it’d be fun to share how it went with everyone! 🙂

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Electric Reads Young Writers’ Anthology 2015

Back in August, I came across a post on Facebook advertising a short story competition run by a company called Electric Reads. They were looking for British writers under the age of 25 to write a 3,000-word or less piece in any genre to be published in an anthology to showcase new talent. So I wrote a short fantasy story, which isn’t something I often do (world-building gets a little difficult when you only have a limited amount of words to tell the story in). I was pretty pleased with the result, however, so I sent it to a friend for editing purposes. They basically told me they’d eat their hat if my piece wasn’t chosen.

So I made the changes they suggested (and a few of my own) and submitted it. I was hopeful, but I wasn’t really expected much.

Then, in early November, I got this email.

On the 11th of December, after several weeks of edits and preparations, the anthology was released worldwide! My story is one of only 25 to be selected and I am incredibly proud of this achievement. I haven’t yet read the other stories (my copy only arrived yesterday!) but judging by the dedicated hard work the team at Electric Reads has put into this anthology, I know they’ll have chosen some absolutely fantastic stories.

The Electric Reads Young Writers’ Anthology 2015 is available from Amazon in eBook, hardback and paperback here, from Barnes & Noble in eBook here, and from Waterstones in hardback here. As young, uestablished writers, this is a huge opportunity for us to get our names out there so it would be amazing if you could support us by reading our stories and – even better – posting a review on any of the aforementioned sellers’ sites, or on our Goodreads page. 🙂

Things People Say When I Tell Them I’m Writing A Novel

Being a writer is part of who I am, and I don’t want to hide it, so if someone asks me what I’m doing tonight, I’m not going to tell them that I’m watching TV all night when actually I’ll be working on my novel. This generally leads to the other person asking two questions: what’s it about, and can I read it? You’d think I’d enjoy hearing these two questions – hearing that people are interested in my book – (I know, me too) so here’s why I don’t.
What is it about?
So many things about this question make me nervous about answering. Firstly, I never know where to start. My head has been filled with the characters, settings and various plot points of this story for almost three years now. It has gone through many changes and will go through many more. This makes it kind of difficult to step back from all the tiny details of the project that I’m currently dealing with to summarise the book’s exposition for you. I always struggle with working out which bits are important and which bits you will understand without me explaining the entire history of my fictional world. As a result, my answer will either be short and vague and therefore rather disappointing (usually I just say “oh, it’s a fantasy”, and only elaborate with something like “it’s about a girl searching for her family” after a little more prompting, though that doesn’t do it justice), or you’ll have to hope you don’t have anything to do in the next few hours because I’m telling you everything. Secondly, as already mentioned, I hate oversimplifying it. It gives the wrong impression (I once told someone my book is about a revolution, which it is, but it lead him to think it’s a political book, which it isn’t) or makes it sound dull, or like I don’t want to talk about it (I do, I just don’t know how to without sounding silly – a pocket watch that gives you the ability to talk to ghosts, are you serious?). On the other hand, I also don’t want to end up boring the other person with all the inconsequential details, or messing up my explanation and just confusing them (which is very likely). I feel like this question puts pressure on the writer to have a good grasp of their book, which you would think they have, but in reality, (at least for me) it’s just a huge mess of ideas.
Can I read it (before it’s published)?
I hate this question, usually because I have to try and find a nice way to say no (“not yet” is my go-to reply). Before you ask it me, I want you to ask yourself a few questions first.
1. Why do you want to read my work? 
If it’s for a ‘claim to fame’, then please don’t ask me if you can read my book. My neighbour is apparently convinced I’ll be the next JK Rowling and wants to be able to say he read my book before it was famous. This makes me uncomfortable partly because it’s highly doubtful I’ll be as successful as JK Rowling and he really shouldn’t expect me to be famous one day just because I’m writing a book, but mostly because it implies to me that he’s actually only interested in my book so that he can have something to boast about in a few years’ time. It also disregards the fact that right now, my novel is a hobby, and getting it published – never mind it being a bestseller – a far-off dream.
2. Are we good friends? 
My book is incredibly personal to me. It isn’t just a story, it’s my imagination laid bare on the page for you to see. So I’m very self conscious about my work. If we’re not really good friends, then I’m not going to want you to read my novel. I’m also not going to want to disappoint you and tell you that I’ll only let you read it when the entire rest of the world can read it too, which puts me in a slightly awkward position. Basically, if I’m not comfortable enough to be myself around you in person, then I won’t be comfortable enough to let you read my book. If it was ready for you to read it, I’d have started querying literary agents already. So if we don’t know each other that well, don’t even ask.
3. Will you be able to give me hugely detailed feedback? 

If you think that writing a book is easy, or that the books you see on the Waterstones bookshelves are word-for-word the same books that their authors wrote when they first sat down at their desks with a vague idea in their heads, you would be wrong. So lower your expectations of however good you think my novel is going to be, and then lower them some more. This is a work in progress and in need of a lot of improvements.    

As the writer, I see my story from a completely unique angle. My position is all-seeing. I know everything that is, could be and could have been in my story. To me, it all makes perfect sense. Unfortunately, my readers will not have this viewpoint, so I have to make sure everything that is important is visible from their angle too, but I can’t see from their viewpoint either. This is where I need help. At this stage, I need readers willing to give me a huge amount of feedback to help me get across what I want to get across and not miss out anything important. If you’re not willing to tell me all of your opinions of my book – what you thought of every character in every scene, your theories on their plans, how much of their backstory you’ve worked out, what confused you, what bored you, what you thought was unnecessary, what you thought was supposed to be funny but really wasn’t and needs to be removed, and, of course, what you enjoyed – then you telling me that you want to read my book is just someone else waiting over my shoulder for me to finish writing, counting on me to come up with a spectacular bestseller all on my own (not going to happen, guys). Your answer to question 2 is also pretty vital here – if I’m not certain that I can trust your judgement and you’ll tell me nothing but the truth, it doesn’t matter if you’re willing to give me all the constructive criticism in the world.

The likelihood is, if your answers to these questions are the ones I’m looking for, you won’t even have to ask to read my book, because I’ll ask you – I wasn’t kidding when I said I will need help with writing my book. And if I’m happy with your answers to questions 2 and 3, I might even completely disregard your answer to 1, but not the other way around.

I’d like to add that these are only my views on this subject. I’m sure there are many writers who are very private about their writing and feel rather awkward when asked about it, like me, but I’m also sure there are many writers who are perfectly happy to talk about whatever project they’re currently working on, who don’t worry about mis-explaining their plot or sounding ridiculous, or who will let anyone who asks read their writing. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them.

Best. Pep Talk. Ever.

One of the reasons that it’s better to do NaNoWriMo or Camp NaNoWriMo than write a novel in any month of the year is the community feeling of I’m not writing alone, if all these other thousands of people can do it then so can I. Another reason is the weekly pep talks.

Yesterday’s, I think, was particularly brilliant. The idea was a personalised pep talk: you were given a list of things to think of…

  1. An awesome superhero name
  2. Adjective describing your main character
  3. Your favorite snack
  4. The last verb your main character enacted
  5. The manufacturer of your favorite snack
  6. The first piece of dialogue in your story that starts with ‘You…’
  7. Your current word count
  8. Adjective describing your inner editor
  9. Adjective describing your best friend
  10. Your favorite supporting character in your Camp project
  11. The last piece of dialogue in your story that ended with an exclamation point
  12. How much time you last spent writing
  13. Your favorite mythological creature
  14. Your favorite author
  15. Write a sentence beginning with the words “Once upon a time”
And then you inserted them into the pep talk in the appropriate numbered gaps. This is what I ended up with:
 
Once, there lived a writer, known throughout the lands as (1)The Authoress. This writer was seized by inspiration one July, and struck out to tell the tale of one known only as “The (2)Determined One.”
The first two weeks were full of wonder. Fueled by (3)chocolate digestives, the writer generated conflicts like vast thunderstorms, and characters so real they jumped off the page only to (4)write you right in the face. (5)McVities, now aware of the crucial role they played in this writer’s story-spinning, swelled with pride and told the writer, “(6)You can’t leave me housekeeper-less, Kerla!
Alas, not all was so rosy. After hitting (7)20,854 words, the writer remembered their last pang of doubt. What if they became blocked once again? What if their story was silly? Maybe… maybe it would be better to stop. They looked into the mirror, and the face they saw seemed almost (8)stupid.
At the writer’s darkest moment, a/an (9)awesome voice arose. “Hey, you can do this,” it said. “If you don’t, how will we ever find out what happens to (10)Felwin? I don’t want to live in a world with that kind of empty hole. Don’t stop now.”
The writer nodded, saying “(11)I can’t just leave it! No matter how far away from my word-count goal I am, I promise to write for at least (12)the majority of the day a day.”
With that, a rainbow sprang across the sky like a (13)dragon racing toward the newest novel by (14)Kristin Cashore. The world seemed to hold its breath, waiting for the writer’s next sentence. The writer smiled, took a deep breath, and wrote “(15)Once upon a time there lived a dragon called Hubert who was a very misunderstood dragon…”

Credit goes to Tim Kim, (Camp) NaNoWriMo’s editorial director, for the writing of this pep talk.

The Technicalities of Writing

When I write, I usually use Microsoft Word but quite often I think that it is merely functional; very good at being functional, yes, but not very inspiring or geared towards things like novels. So today I downloaded two free pieces of writing software which I thought I’d try out, after a little bit of research.

I chose Storybook, a novel planning tool, and FocusWriter, a word processor designed with authors in mind.
Obviously I haven’t had much chance to use either that much yet, but so far I’m ranking FocusWriter higher than Storybook. FocusWriter does what it says on the tin – lets you focus on writing. It’s got a very simple layout, with the toolbar only appearing when you hover your mouse over it, so that literally all you can see when you have the programme full screen is the writing you’re doing. You can set themes to make the screen a little more interesting – have a background picture that may inspire you to write, for example. I have not yet made use of the timer facilities it offers, but from what I’ve read, it sounds as if they will come in very handy. This programme makes writing feel new and exciting – probably something akin to the feeling I got when I discovered that I could type up the stories I wrote by hand on Microsoft Word 2003 when I was about eight. Having something written on the computer made it feel special, but these days – especially since I’ve had my own laptop – I write most of what I write on the computer, so Microsoft Word – even with a far more recent version – doesn’t feel special anymore. FocusWriter, however, does.
As for Storybook, I’m a little disappointed. It doesn’t inspire me; it hasn’t come to life and shown its many uses yet. Mostly, it confused me, but then again, confusion does come with unfamiliarity. The idea behind Storybook seems to be that you enter in your characters and the locations, and you link them together in scenes which you can sort into chapters and parts, and also into strands of your plot, in the end giving you an outline to follow, which you can change as your story changes. This, as I both read online and discovered myself in entering in information for my prologue and first three chapters, is pretty time consuming. But according to my online source, it gets more useful after you’ve sorted all this out. So I hope I shall warm to it. We shall have to see.
I was hoping today to talk about at least one of the projects I’m working on, but alas that has not occurred; I got distracted by working out new writing software. Hopefully, though, my next post shall be on novel-in-progress code-name: Barnabus’ Balloons.

Maps of Imaginary Places

Many things happen in my head, and I write some of them down.
Sometimes, I draw maps for the stuff that happens in my head.

 

“Eastern Continent”

 

I like drawing maps.
“Mountains an’ stuff yay”

 

“No, no mountains here”
So sometimes, I draw maps that don’t have any relevance even to the things in my head. I colour them in and everything.

Keeping The Ink Monsters Happy

The teacher who runs my school’s creative writing club gave me a picture of a moomin because I won’t be able to go to the creative writing club when I’m at uni. It was the last writing club we’d all be likely to attend together due to study leave, exams, etc (and even then, we still weren’t all there).
She made me promise to carry on writing, and I will because the ink monsters won’t go away that easily (but ssh, you mustn’t tell anyone about the ink monsters, they’re secret).
I’d like to say that I created this blog in order to fulfil this promise, but I created this blog yesterday and made the promise earlier today, and apparently time just doesn’t work like that.