Tag Archive: Stories


I’ve always fancied writing about living in London. I tried to do it once when I dabbled with a sequel to Reset but the whole thing fell flat because….I’ve never lived in London! How could I write about something that I don’t have a clue about? I don’t know street names, hidden locations, shortcuts. I don’t know what it’s like to wake up there every day. To have my faced pushed against a tube window during a morning commute. To dash through the rain and streetlights in the middle of the night. To sip a drink in the shadows of a bar. I don’t know what it’s like to live in London. So I couldn’t possibly write about it.

It might sound like an obvious idea but this lesson has taken me a long time to learn.

When I was growing up my projects usually focused on characters in a theatre group or at school, because that’s all I knew. I didn’t click at first, but my projects all had similar threads. Reset is based in Cardiff because I’ve spent a lot of time there over the years. After Caitlyn focuses on a toxic friendship and the repercussions it can have. Alex’s story is about the struggle to find your place in the world. The strongest threads come from my own knowledge. Naturally.

A few weeks ago something happened and the more I thought about it the more I felt the need to write it down. I started with this tiny incident which grew, and is still growing, into a full story. I’ve got a character who is becoming more and more real and situations which I think are running very natural courses because the initial basis of the story is truth.

I’m sure it goes without saying that the best writers are those who have lived through pain and truly experienced life. It’s no wonder I’ve been getting so frustrated with my ideas, feeling like they’re old news, like my imagination is drying up. I’ve used up all my stock. How can I write about different cities if I’ve never visited them? About life experiences if I’ve never experienced them?

The message is to write about what you know. And if you don’t know it, go and find it.

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Read for Speed

 

‘I read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in a three hours’ – Former school friend

‘I couldn’t put the book down…I read it in a day!’ – Some Twitter guy 

‘I couldn’t wait to get the end so I read it an afternoon’ – A woman in a shop 

As you know, I love reading. I read every single day and have cupboards, drawers and shelves teeming with books. I even have book wallpaper in my living room, for crying out loud. I’m a book person. A booky. I’m also a Harry Potter fan so when my copy of the Cursed Child arrived last Sunday, I was a bit over-excited. I was book-ravenous. Itching to get going. I examined its cover, I stroked it and, yes, I admit, I sniffed it. I couldn’t wait to read it.

But there was also a part of me that could. I’d waited a long time to find out what the next Potter installment involved and I was hesitant to race through the book because…well….that would mean reaching the end sooner (said Captain Obvious). Yes, I wanted to devour every little secret hidden in its pages, but I also wanted to enjoy the story and take my time. [It took me just over 24 hours. With restraint.]

Anyway, taking to twitter, I noticed a lot of people bragging about how fast they read the novel and it got me thinking….why? Alright, I did rush Curse Child but in my defence I’d pushed my self-control to its absolute limit. Also, it was a play script so it’s naturally going to read quicker than a novel. But why do people feel the need to rush read?

Reading, for me, is a hobby. It’s what I do for pleasure. It can sometimes take me a month to read a book that I’m really enjoying. Sometimes people ask me how long I’ve been reading a certain book for and I might say ‘Oh about three weeks….but, you know, I’ve been so busy with work…’

Straight away I feel like I have to defend my slow reading. Being busy might be true, but sometimes I’m taking my time because  I’m enjoying the story, making the most of spending time with characters and living in that world. I shouldn’t feel pressured to read faster – where’s the fun in that? Who rushes a hobby? Who wants to rush enjoyment? What kind of mad person does that?

So, to the skimmers of the World I say ‘Slow down! Relax! And enjoy!’. Embrace the slowness. Enjoy each story. Our lives are busy enough as it is so why should we deprive ourselves of our enjoyment by forcing it to end sooner? To the slow readers, I salute you! If you’re a passionate reader, I invite you to take a seat, delve into your nearest paperback and immerse yourself in brilliant new worlds, one chapter at a time!

*puts feet up and opens book*

 

I have itchy fingers.

I am itching to write another story. To go on a fresh adventure and get to know some new adventures. The last few months have been pretty hectic and I can’t help but feel I’ve neglected my work. After finishing the first draft of After Caitlyn in September, I’ve re-visited it a couple of times to edit and tweak but whilst I know I should focus my attention on refining that story, my mind can’t help drifting off…..

The bones of After Caitlyn are on paper, it just needs fleshing out. It usually takes me a while to get a story down but I was particularly proud at how speedy I managed to write this. It probably took around two weeks to get the whole first draft down….but after that….I’ve neglected it. This is a writing-disorder I have suffered from in the past.

The work I’m most proud of is Reset, but I cannot get a final edit. It’s huge. It took a good 18 months to write and stands at 64 chapters. The problem I have is each time I come to edit I fix a few chapters and then leave it for a couple of months and by the time I’ve come back….I’ve completely lost track and have to start again. Feeling adventurous last summer, I decided to start planning a sequel. I made a few notes, but then After Caitlyn stole my attention.  When it comes to writing….I’m fickle!

I’ve also had a sitcom project that has been rumbling along for about three years. I’ve updated ideas and written a few scenes along the way but I’m yet to finish a solid episode. The characters in this script fascinate me and I really feel they are the most rounded characters I’ve created. I really think I could have a lot of fun with the material I’ve already collected but for some reason…I just can’t get started!

So my question is, as a writer, is it best to channel your energy finishing each project before moving on to the next? Or should you work on projects as they pop into your mind?  If I relaxed and simply worked on each project when I fancied it, it might take me years to complete something but the work wouldn’t be forced. On the other hand, over the next couple of years I could end up accumulating a laptop full of notes and incomplete documents but not one finished story! Hmm….a severe case of itchy fingers.

Saturday night. Whilst other twenty-somethings were downing shots, snogging strangers and being sick in the back of taxis, I was blissfully reading through the full first draft of my second novel with a glass of milk and a Cadbury’s Flake.

I wasn’t bothered about how tame my Saturday was because in front of me was something I had done all by myself. I love that sense of achievement and I will always crave it.

It was all there in front of me (and now I’m going to say the title for the first time…oh God…ready?) – After Caitlyn, draft one. The total opposite of Reset – shorter, more humble and grounded – but still holding enough power in those few pages to make me feel totally fulfilled.  I’d written the whole thing in about two weeks after a sudden and unstoppable burst of inspiration (see last post!). So, again it differed to Reset which took me about a year and half to write.

Now the tough part begins – editing.

Tough for a couple of reasons (mainly because the editing stage is where I find myself most distracted to a point where I can no longer be arsed. Soon, months have gone by and I’ve disengaged with the story completely and have to re-read!). I’m sure it will be different this time. I start with a team of readers (who are reading as I type) then carry out a second edit following their feedback.

Tough, also, because I can be very indecisive. Several characters in this story have emotionally complex backgrounds which are often given as excuses for their behaviour. The dilemma I have is – how much backstory do I give them? I’ve been careful not to explain too much so as not to distract from the main story. I know what happened to my characters before After Caitlyn begins, but I’m not sure I want/need to share all of that with readers. In some novels I’ve read, the fact that a characters backstory is left uncertain contributes to the brilliance of the book, but in others it’s been necessary to know about the character’s history in order to make sense of their actions. I wanted to make this story as real as possible – focusing on real, human people in a real, human situation – so omitting details from a character’s past might work to promote that as, in life, we can never really know anyone.

One character has their background heavily alluded to but details are not given. I think I’ll stick with that. But another prominent character, who carries out really despicable deeds and behaves in a totally unacceptable way, does not have their history fully explained. By the time I’d reached the end of the story I couldn’t help worrying there was a danger of this character becoming 2D and…hmm…slightly pantomime! This character has had a very tricky past and I’m unsure whether explaining that would make their actions a bit more understandable (but not forgivable!) I don’t want to lay on this character’s backstory too thickly as I think their story needs an element of mystery to fit with their sudden arrival and subsequent disappearance. So, is it necessary to know a character’s backstory? Or can great characters often come from mystery and the reader’s own assumptions?

Isn’t it funny how inspiration can hit at any time?

After finishing Reset last summer, I found myself itching to start a new project. I’ve got a sitcom that has been on a slow burn for a three or four years (and has recently turned into a drama series), but I found myself craving prose. I needed to write another novel. I wasn’t looking for commitment as epic as Reset (which ended up at 62 chapters and is a bitch to edit) – I needed a quick literary fling. I’ve started three short stories over the last year but neither of them got finished due to the life-consuming PGCE but when the summer holidays came I had no excuse not to get writing.

Over the summer, I pledged to start writing again but, besides this blog and the odd adjustment to the sitcom/drama, I’d produced very little. Inspiration had evaded me. I sat for hours in front of the laptop but would get distracted by facebook, TV, reading, my dog….etc.

Until last week when – hallelujah! – Inspiration hit! I suddenly realised a story that had lurked at the back of my mind for months could suddenly work! Cue lots of late night planning and writing.

When I’m searching for inspiration I usually turn to three things:

  • Music – I have an eclectic mix of songs on my iPod which can fuel my creative ideas. From Michel Giacchino to Fleetwood Mac – anything works.
  • Walking/Driving – Sometimes I just need to get out and go. Whether it’s a drive around my hometown or a walk along the beach, staying put stifles me.
  • Setting the mood – Writing comes best to me late at night when I’m sat in my room, listening to some music and burning incense. Often with the curtains open so I can see the moon (romantic, right?)

But it wasn’t any of these that worked this time. I was visiting family in a wi-fi free zone. No distractions. I was thinking about a memory which rolled into an idea which suddenly grew into a story. Within two hours I’d written 30 pages. Within just a few days I’d finished a first draft which is such an achievement for me as I usually plod quite slowly through stories. So, for the next few days I will be disconnecting the wi-fi, turning off my phone and locking myself in my room with food and water until editing is complete! If anyone wants to buy me a writing retreat on a remote island you are most welcome.