Friday, 6 November 2015

Author in a Bucket


*Points for getting this reference. It's an easy reference, but still, I'm benevolent, so points.

Anyway, I've currently got multiple things to be happy about.

I sat my ELAT!

Wow, well done!" you exclaim. What's an ELAT?!" 

Basically, if you applying to Oxford (which I am), you have to sit a test beforehand. ELAT = English Literature Admissions Test. I am so so glad it's over.

I finished Hamlet!

It was fab. I mean, really.

I saw Rebecca!

At the theatre, in Glasgow. It was a great play. I'm always wary of any and all adaptations of my favourite books, but it was A++.

I'm off school today!

Because I'm super ill ... not. (But sshh, don't tell them.) I'm having a Rest Day. After ELAT, theatre, fireworks last night (happy Guy Fawkes Night, everybody), I was absolutely drained. I slept for eleven hours last night. Today, I have tidied. It has been glorious. 

I'm going away for the weekend!



To tell you all the very honest truth, it's had this title since the summer. But I've been avoiding telling it to anyone or writing it down, because I didn't want to commit. I wanted to be sure.

Now I am sure.

The City and the Trees.

Now that we are all dancing the dance of life, I reach the point of this post. (Ha, you all thought it didn't have one. But it does.)

Ashley @ [insert title here] has tagged me for the Authorly Bucket List!
(Now, perhaps, you understand my weird title. The idea of a bucket list" has always amused me. Like, what a weird expression.)

The tag goes thus: list 3-7 things you're bad at as a writer, and 3-7 you'd like to try.

The Bad

1. I'm going to be super eloquent!"

So, you know that I am obsessed with F Scott Fitzgerald and aspire to be him. Likewise Maggie Stiefvater and Donna Tartt. These are not plain" writers; they are poetic. They are a lyrical. I am a poet. I like metaphors. I like interesting word choice.

Unfortunately, I am good at taking this too far.The green fire of a faraway ocean blazed in her stricken eyes, full of blackened hopes and blighted dreams, ripped away by lying hands to be drowned in the cruel crust of the arid earth ..." <-- THIS IS THE KIND OF SENTENCE I WRITE. Note how every noun has an adjective. I mean, I'm exaggerating ... but only slightly!

Also, pay attention to how the metaphors don't really make sense. The green fire of a faraway ocean?" That doesn't mean anything.

2. Characters?

In my last post, I talked about the new book I'm accidentally planning. Unfortunately, I've realised that I have, like, four basic character skeletons. So Teresa and Felicity (go back one post to read about them) are basically Corrie and Aurelle. 

I have another idea that I'm planning, with FMCs Aithne and Leo. Aithne is Corrie, Leo is Mel. So in terms of FMCs, we have:

#1 The introverted soulful one. Corrie, Teresa, Aithne.

#2 The bubbly excitable one. Mel, Leo.

#3 The shallow pretty one. Aurelle, Felicity. 

And that's only the girls! Oops ...

3. Apparently, dialogue!

I never felt like I had a particular problem with dialogue, but every story of ever I hand in to my English teacher says things like tidy up the dialogue. Work on the dialogue". I just don't know how.

4. Worldbuilding

I've got better! I promise! But when I started The City and the Trees (and can I just say it's so beautiful to type that rather than untitled WIP" ... gah!), I did like, zero worldbuilding. Maps? Nah. Currency? Don't bother. Religion? Just ignore it until you've been writing the thing for eighteen months!
I'm sure this is why the book took such a stupidly long time. I've learnt my lesson, though. Next time I do fantasy, I'm doing the worldbuilding beforehand. 

(It is really good fun redrafting TCATT (gaahhh it has a name!) and adding all this stuff in from the beginning. I'm enjoying it immensely.)

My Wishes

1. The Ruskins!

That is the family from the aforementioned Teresa-and-Felicity-book, and I am so so so excited to write their book.

2. Aithne, Leo and Kit!

And Kit. The third member of the trio. This is my fantasy idea, as I mentioned above. Basically, a princess (Leonora, known as Leo) goes missing/is kidnapped/something, and the king puts a reward (and her hand in marriage, I think) on getting her back safely. Extremely poor orphan Aithne is seventeen and taking care of her five younger siblings. She has an older brother, Hector. She decides to dress up as a boy and go looking for Leonora. She teams up with Kit (who I think has mild Aspergers), also looking for the princess, and they go questing together.

That's all I know, except that it's a cool steampunk world loosely based on 1920s Britain. (Basically, a fantasy Great Gatsby ... didn't I say I was obsessed with Fitzgerald?) I always think it's weird that fantasy worlds have no mod-cons or even electricity etc. In Aithne's world, electricity is just filtering down to the poorest in society. Telegrams have just been invented. 

Also, there are two moons.

3. A book about art.

Recently I posted a review of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. It is a book centring around The Goldfinch by Fabritius (a painting), and I think that's the coolest thing of ever. I really want a book about art and paintings.

4. A book about literature.

I'm pretty certain this is the Ruskin book. Mr Ruskin (as yet unnamed) is an academic. His mother (Daphne, the matriarchal grandmother) was a Shakespearean actress. Teresa is studying English. Felicity loves the Romantic poets. Basically, I'm going to quote Hamlet and Coleridge a lot.

(That's my problem with fantasy. You can talk about books and art (and I do, I've built a lot of culture for Ivaria), but it's not the same as when the books/art are actually real, and your readers have read/seen them. Personally I love reading about characters' favourite books. Sometimes they are my favourite books, too. It's all very exciting.)

5. Metafiction

According to Wikipedia, metafiction is a literary device used to self-consciously and systematically draw attention to a work's status as an artifact." This means fiction that's aware it's fiction. For example, there's a play by Luigi Pirandello called Six Characters in Search of an Author, wherein the characters know they are characters. Or, in the novel Lanark by Alasdair Gray, there's a whole section where the MC turns round and starts speaking to the author

I do a tiny bit of this in The City and the Trees

These joys of my new life run side by side with the mundane and the lonely, so that sadness and bliss intertwine and leave me with no notion of how to feel. Perhaps I am a character in a play, with a thousand lines to share but no fellow-players, and no audience.

The irony being that Corrie is a character. She is also a writer -- snippets from her WIP novel are distributed throughout the narrative -- and sometimes she complains about how her characters won't do what she tells them ... which is also ironic, because she is my character and frequently doesn't do what I tell her. This is sort of an in-joke between me and the reader -- look at Corrie, not realising that she is actually a character in someone else's book" -- but I suppose it is also an in-joke between the reader and Corrie -- look at Emily, she can't control me!"

Which leads me to the question: what if I am a character in someone else's book?

These are the things I think about before I go to sleep, guys.

So, I've got no clue how my metafictional novel will manifest itself, but whatever, I want it to happen.

6. More diversity!

You have heard many times (and no doubt will hear many more times) how I started The City and the Trees: I signed up for NaNo with eleven days to go, and it was pantsing from then forward. I like pantsing -- I am a pantser at heart -- but it did mean I just jumped in without considering things like diversity.

My four MCs are all white and none of them have any disabilites/illnesses. I'm not saying this is a bad thing. I really can't be bothered with books that put in diversity just for the sake of it, and for me, my MCs are realistic; Ivarian culture is based on 17th/18th century Britain/France, so pretty much everybody is white, and as for illness etc, that's just not something any of my MCs are dealing with. And that's OK! I wouldn't change it! But I do think there should be, for example, more mental illness in fantasy.

I suppose the diversity in TCATT comes from class struggle -- the MCs range from working to middle class -- and the conflicts between urban and rural life (like, the city and the trees, geddit?), as well as questions about democracy, the monarchy, and gender equality. But I would like to go for more racial diversity in future books, and have a think about mental illness in fantasy.


I'm not going to tag anyone, because I'm lazy because Ashley already tagged my writerly pals when she tagged me, but if you are a writer, please tell me one thing you suck at (we're here to help each other, right?) and one thing you want to try!

Have a lovely weekend.


  1. LOVE this post so much! Congrats on the title!That is a huge accomplishment. I really like it too. The City and the Trees. TREES!

    Also, that Sherlock gif. XD

    Yes, being super eloquent. I've done that for the wrong POV once. I wrote something and I was like, "I like this! It's not too long. It's poetic and metaphoric to the situation at hand. It's nice." And then I realized it was Rocky's POV. Rocky doesn't use big words. He doesn't normally see metaphors in life. Rocky's extent of description is more like, "Hey, the sky is pretty and blue today. Perfect for adventuring." :P

    I used to stink at dialogue. I would use all the exclamation marks. Every word was so stilted and unreal. Just bleh. But now I think I can say I'm a little better? And the only advice I can give is practice. I look back at the first draft of Oddball the First and half of it is dialogue. . . Also, listening to how other people talk. That helps too.

    Yeah, I might have a few of those character skeletons. . .


    Oo, a book about art. That sounds so awesome! I would love to read that.

    Also, a book about literature. JUST YES! I've always wanted to do this, and I adore reading it. You're right though, that is one of the draw backs to fantasy. You have to make everything up! I kind of want to do this with the weird idea. It's a futuristic world and the protagonist is obsessed with the past (aka our present day), so she's seen and read a lot of our movies and books. She and another character are like to quote The Princess Bride.

    Metafiction! I really love how you're adding that to The City and the Trees. It's just, so refreshing and different. I like metafiction. (Also, that play sounds really interesting.)

    1. THANK YOU! AND THANK YOU! You're a babe, I love it too! :')

      I know xD

      Hahaha, that's so funny! So, who is the metaphorical one? I have the opposite problem: because Corrie and I are both writers we bounce off each other. It's like, who can come up with a more pretentious simile today? We really make each other worse. I need a good dose of Jem to ease off my faux-eloquence.

      UGH! EXCLAMATION MARKS! I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH EXCLAMATION MARKS! (Can you tell?) Listening to other people talk is a good shout. I've often considered taping a convo between me and friends and then typing out the transcript and seeing how it differs from my idea of dialogue.

      ~gulps shiftily~

      MY FAVES!!!

      I definitely will one day! EXCITEMENT. (I'm just thinking right now ... will it be urban fantasy?? Because I am desperate for urban fantasy, and yet somehow my ideas never seem to work. Some of the Trees (remember, with Maire and Lucas and Regan) was UF, but tbh I've dropped that idea. Corrie's book is now called Some of the Trees. We can't both write it.)

      I knooow! Ha, that sounds so cool! I love the weird idea :') Though ... ~looks down guiltily~ I've not actually seen TPD .....

      Right? I'm so excited. (Also I'm so excited to hear you reFER TO MY BOOK BY ITS TITLE IT HAS A TITLE!)

  2. Congrats on the title! I think naming a book is like an amazing milestone! The City and the Trees, I like that :D

    I'm horrible at worldbuilding, I have no description skill at all!

    And I definitely agree with you on the diversity bit, more books need that!


    1. Thank you! It's been over two years, so I'm super happy to have it down.

      Worldbuilding is a tough one; it can, in my opinion, make or break the book! It can be so tricky.

      Definitely, I'll be hoping to incorporate it one of these days :)

      Thanks for visiting, Noor!

  3. This is such a great post! I love that you're writing a character who's a Shakespearean actress; that's so neat!

    Books about literature are great because the people reading the book already love literature. Good luck with that! I hope it works out for you. I'm working on a piece that's set in a library, so I'm obviously on board with that, haha.

    Diversity is always good, but I agree diversity for the sake of diversity is not good.

    That was a bit of rambly comment, but enjoyable post!

    1. Thank you! I'm sad to say I'm not writing her yet -- TCATT series takes precedence -- but one day soon! :D

      Exactly! That sounds cool. You've made me think of The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry, which was one of my 2014 faves, and one of the best things was the narrator (a librarian)'s love of books.


      Not at all, thanks for stopping by! :)

  4. I bet you absolutely aced your ELAT! I've never heard of it before, but I can't imagine you got anything worse than the best c: And woah, Oxford???? That's insanely awesome, Emily!

    Hamlet - something I actually wouldn't mind reading. I'm currently on The Book Thief though, which is incredible. I'm assuming you've read it? If not, you must, and you won't regret it.

    WHERE ARE YOU GOING AWAY FOR THE WEEKEND? *edit, somewhere with the church, got you.

    The City and The Trees is an awesome title!! Loooove itttt!!

    And aaaah, that snippet from your novel in #5, Metafiction, is the kind of thing I love. Like I'd be reading something and a character would be saying something similar, and I'd audibly shout YOU DIDN'T to the book whilst pointing towards it. Insane?

    Little Moon Elephant

    1. Ha, thank you! Not sure if I'd place a bet ... but thanks! XD

      It was sooo good, but I'd say don't read it without seeing it first, and preferably read it soon after you've seen it. I saw Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet (not in real life, tragically, but at a film theatre), so when I was reading it I was basically seeing him delivering all the lines in my head XD

      Lendrick Muir! (A place in Perthshire. A place in Scotland. Yes, with church.)

      THANK YOU, I'M SO EXCITED! I just wrote five pages of draft 2 ... wish I did that every day, though!

      Hahaha that makes me v happy! Not insane at all, I'm just the same.

  5. Ooh, a title!! I'm always so envious and interested in people's writing process and abilities, because I've never been a writer myself! If I were, I'd like to be like Maggie Stiefvater with beautiful lyrical prose, too. Anyways, you have heaps more promise as a writer than I ever could have - how exciting that you've already come so far with your wip!!

    1. Thank you! I'm sure you could write far more than you think, though of course, everyone has their own thing that they do!

      Maggie Stiefvater is my absolute goal!

  6. Hooray for NaNo! I hope you're doing well in it! Steampunk = awesome. We need more good steampunk out there.

    1. Ha, I'm not actually doing NaNo, but thanks for the thought!

      I'm super excited about the steampunk idea! O.o


Thanks for commenting! :)