Saturday, 11 June 2016

Written Life

Thank you verily much to Ashley from [insert title here] for tagging me for #WritersLife! I've had this tag lying around since, oh, eh, the 13th of October 2015 ... but, look, I've nothing if not a long memory. (The 13th of October is my birthday, incidentally. Fun fact.)

Warning: this post will include hashtags. I used to rail against them with cries of “YOU DON'T NEED HASHTAGS APART FROM ON TWITTER! ONLY FOOLS USE HASHTAGS! HASHTAGS ARE FOR FOOLS!", but in my old age I have mellowed and I think they're an interesting characteristic of our generation.


What do you eat/drink while writing?

Put the kettle on
Put the kettle on
It is the British answer
To Armageddon.
Never mind taxes rise
Never mind trains are late
One thing you can be sure of
And that's the kettle, mate…

~ from Alternative Anthem by John Agard

I don't mean to fulfil national stereotypes, but THERE IT IS AND WE CANNOT FIGHT IT.

I especially enjoy drinking my writing tea from this beautiful mug, which I got last month from Cait's Society6 store. Check check check it out. I don't eat whilst writing, because I like to concentrate on food.
What do you listen to while writing?

Either noise distracts me, or I drown it out. No in between.
What is the worst thing that's ever happened to you while writing?

Honestly, I can't think of much. My laptop, cranky old beast that it is, presents me with the Blue Screen of Death with alarming frequency these days. But I've never lost any files. And having such an untrustworthy beast of burden laptop makes me more careful about BACKING EVERYTHING UP. 

What's the best thing that's ever happened to you while writing, or how do you celebrate small victories?

I celebrate small victories by doing small dances. I then go and make tea. There's a surprise, eh? Sometimes I spam you lot / my irl friends with news of my success. I may eat a biscuit or several. And also make more tea.

Who do you communicate with or not communicate with while writing?

I don't communicate with anyone while writing ... except the characters, perhaps, but that's all getting a bit meta isn't it? When I'm not actually writing, I bore/annoy friends with Tales of TCATT (89% of which is me going “ASGLKGLKF COREM I CAN'T EVEN!" while they nod patiently on). I also communicate with you lovely people, as I am doing right this second.

What is your secret to success?

I've said it once, I've said it twice, I've said it a thousand times. Just write. That is the #1 secret to success. Stick at it. If you wait for the perfect time to write, you'll never write anything. And practice is the way you improve. In English last year we sometimes wrote in class, and everyone would complain and get very little done. And I would put my head down and write lots, and people would express amazement and say “you are so talented! You got so much done, and in such a short time, and it's so good!" THAT IS NOT BECAUSE I AM TALENTED. I am no more talented than many in that class, probably less talented than some. But I have good habits of writing diligently when I have the chance -- not when I'm “feeling inspired". Also, practice has helped me to tone down my (reflexive) Pretentious Overwriting Teen-ness. 

Which isn't a very exciting answer, but it's true. Sorry.

[source] // I love how true this is! Not being able to remember which scenes came easily and which didn't.
Other things: don't write for others. Sometimes I get stressed that my book isn't in a specific “publishable" mould, but here's the thing. If you are passionate about your book and work hard on it, that's going to shine through, and someone somewhere is definitely going to be passionate about it too. So if you write primarily for yourself, you will create something others can love.

Do not be ashamed to be excited about your writing. Other people will be too. Promise.
I happen to think workspace is quite important. I know this kind of goes against my “it doesn't matter! JUST DO IT!*" thing, but on the other hand, writing even when it's hard does not mean you have to make it hard for yourself. So go somewhere quiet. Tidy your room. Take a notebook to a coffee shop. Whatever floats your boat.
*If you read that in Shia Labeouf's voice, you were right.

Write even when the world is chaotic. You don't need a cigarette, silence, music, a comfortable chair, or inner peace to write. You just need ten minutes, and a writing implement.~Cory Doctorow:


Are you ready for a nerdy answer? 

During autumn 2015 - spring 2016 I learnt a lot about the interlocking between my feminism, my writing, and my room.

“A woman must have a room of her own if she is to write fiction" ~ Virginia Woolf

In Advanced Higher English we studied The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Offred, the narrator, is a Handmaid -- a state-sanctioned concubine. She has no rights -- women aren't allowed to read or write -- and at first she rejects her room in the Commander (the man she lives with and has to sleep with)'s house because she doesn't want something that is state-assigned. But then she reclaims it as her own, because, she says, “there must be some space, finally, I claim as mine."

In this section, Atwood references Woolf's A Room of One's Own, which states that a woman needs her own room for her liberation / self-determination. The Handmaid's Tale if full of literary allusions of this sort, because Offred supposedly isn't allowed to read and write, and so she fills her narrative with palimpsests to other literature, in order to show the weight of words that is behind her, keeping her sane.

Her room is her space for introspection and reflection, and the book itself reflects this, because it, like the room, is a space for female creativity and herstory.

So when I write in my room -- my own space, full of my things and my thoughts -- I feel that I am exercising my rights as a female writer, in the pattern of Woolf and Atwood and so many others. And that inspires me.

Thank you, I'm done.
What is one thing that writers do (or you do) that's annoying?

Things I've been viciously cutting recently (I'm currently close-editing my book):

~ dialogue tags! These aren't annoying particularly. They're just unnecessary about 80% of the time.

~ “I see / I hear". The book is in the first person, and Corrie's constantly seeing and hearing things. But instead of “I see Jem come into the room", why not just, “Jem comes into the room"?

Hmmm, Corrie?!
~ the pretentious angsty teen-dom. I know I said earlier that I'm learning not to do that, but it does slip in, especially with Corrie at the helm, #1 Drama Llama and Hopeless Romantic Supreme. Most of my notes in the manuscript say “could u chill plz" or “that simile is laaaame". 

Share a snippet from a project past or present.
I have long realised that, wherever I am and whatever I’m doing, I always return to trees and magic. 
I write everything, manuscripts overflowing from drawers in my room: abandoned ideas, first chapters, last chapters, long stretches of dialogue, pages of description and half-finished novellas. Finished works, in various stages of polish: millions of words, stacking up in my head. I’ve written about fantasy lands, populated by mages; imagined countries with glass hills and silver seas; royalty, romance, history, crime; school stories, mystery, murder; scenes set in Oblasten or Tellarik though I have never been. I’ve written about lives far more interesting than my own.
~ from The City and the Trees



  1. LOL, we both posted a tag on the same day, and both were ones we'd had sitting around for a while. XD Braintwins moment!

    It's so fun getting a peek into your writing life! I loved your answer about forming habits of diligence and getting stuff done regardless of talent. And that text about apologizing for talking about what we love? That kinda hit home. Not that I've had anyone tell me to shut up like that, but for some reason I have this idea that most people don't find it very interesting, so I apologize for rambling on about my writing. I need to change that.

    I am pleased to hear another person wanting to cut out "I see/I hear." Because yay for trimming unnecessary words! And I just find those sensory tags (I don't know, that's my term for them) to be annoying sometimes. Depending on the context. But when they're overused, I feel like it distances the reader from the POV character.

    "I always return to trees and magic." I AM JUST GOING TO LOVE TCATT, I KNOW IT. <3

    Thanks for the tag! I only have three-ish on my waiting list, so hey--I might get to it within the year. XDDD

    1. Braintwins indeed! I will read yours in, oh, a couple of centuries ... ~drowns in unread posts~

      I loooove that text. I'm always trying to draw people out to tell me about what they love.

      It can distance the reader from the action, I guess, because it's constantly reminding us we're seeing things THROUGH CORRIE'S EYES. Which is important but should be done more skillfully than just her constantly saying I see, I hear. You know??


      You're welcome! I have a couple of others piled up at the moment. Oops! XD

  2. Interesting, I never thought of a private room in that way before. I just wanted a private writing room for the (admittedly somewhat selfish) purpose of silence.

    I love that snippet, and the picture of the wealth of written snippets it makes!

    1. The Handmaid's Tale really opened my eyes / changed my life! Silence IS very, very good, too.

      Thank you! <3

  3. OMG THIS POST IS SO MUCH GOLD I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT TO FLAIL OVER FIRST. No wait, definitely this -->" But I have good habits of writing diligently when I have the chance -- not when I'm “feeling inspired" YESSSSS. I can't agree more! People always say I'm this amazing writer for being able to finish a book in 4 or 5 days. NO. I just hyper-focus. I don't procrastinate. I try to just get in and get things done and think about it as a job, sometimes???
    And YES to having a writing space! MEEEEE. I think it's actually really important to do things that make the writing easier. Like maybe you can't wait until you're in the mood to write (I would never write thenšŸ˜‚) but if sitting in the same place with the right socks on and the right flavour of tea helps? THEN DO IT I SAY.
    I also totally agree with your pet peeves. GAH. It drives me BONKERS when there's the dialogue tags all over the place. Of course "say/said" is preferable (I can't stand the telling ones like shrieked/hollered/hissed etc.) but using action beats is SO much better!!

    Anyway. I RAMBLE ON TOO MUCH. XD And omg thank yooooou for buying that mug!! <333 Can I share that picture on twitter?! (It's totally okay if it's a no!) I'd credit you of course. :D

    1. THANK YOU! I am v impressed by your speed writing, of course, but equally I know you have PRACTISED and also that's the way you work and everyone works differently. And you WORK HARD. It doesn't just *happen*!

      Hahaha shrieked/hollered/hissed! Don't forget expostulated, grumbled, guffawed XD But so often it's like, HELLO, there's two people in this convo. I KNOW WHO'S TALKING. I'M NOT AN IDIOT.

      No, thank you for the comment, it is not rambly! But I love my mug <3 And yes, please do! Thank you! :D :D

  4. I like tea while I write too, it works for some reason.

  5. This is such a great post! Thank you for sharing so much about your process! I love that you see yourself in a tradition of female writers. I also love the show up, show up, show up quote. It's so true.

    Really enjoyed this:)

    1. Thank you, Sunny. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for sharing on Twitter!!! The Allende quote is my fave <3

  6. That mug, tho, that mug is so cute and now I want one. o.o And I'm totally with you on disliking the angst. Let's...let's just please get out of that. Please. Let's not even do it. *dramatic sigh*

    1. IT'S SO CUTE, ISN'T IT? Ugh @ the angst. So I'm currently reading the Aeneid and every time Achilles is mentioned I think of your angsty Achilles from the sci fi Iliad XD

  7. Sorry it's taken me like a week to get around to commenting, but thanks for the tag! And I can't believe you write without music, like dude that's crazy. I'm listening to music 97.6% of the time when I write. Also, that's awesome that you just drink tea all the time because tea is awesome. It was nice to learn more about you as a writer!

    1. No problem! I'm about four weeks deep in unread posts ... ! WRITING WITH MUSIC IS MADNESS. MADNESS I SAY. But tea is my fuel and the nectar of my soul.

  8. LOVE THIS POST! Backing up all files is a very good habit to have! I even back up my music files as my iTunes is moody and likes to randomly delete my music. Grrr.

    Cait's Society6 is glorious. I wish I had more money. XD

    Love, love what you say about writing often even when you don't want to. It really is hard when you're not inspired or the words are hard to come. Bffecause those are the times when the verbs are lame and Oddball is always "seeing/hearing" (I am with you, that is the one of the worst things ever). Or the plans are less brilliant and more slapdash and the dialogue sags so much it's drowned in the lake. Those are really hard times to write, but the ONLY way to get through them is to WRITE THROUGH THEM. Actually, I'm having a long "write through" stretch at the moment. But it won't last forever.

    Also, the don't write for others thing. I think we get caught up in the "this is dumb/no one will read this," doldrums sometimes. We forget about how many people there are in the world. Surely someone somewhere is bound to like similar things and books as us.

    So I really like your nerdy answer about the room quote and The Handmaid's Tale (and the gif is like perfection alkdfjasdlkfj)! Very purposeful. I write in my room normally too. Although it's more because it's quiet/ few people dare bother me. Also, it's my room and it's a wreck. There's no order. I can't write somewhere that is immaculately organized (I can't function in a place that's immaculately organized). I have to be in someplace that mirrors the scattered chaos that's happening in my brain or else I can't think properly. . . Maybe that's sad or weird, but true nonetheless.

    I really like those snippets also!

    1. THANK YOU! I know. It's a v wise habit.

      She had a sale and I was like WELL I'M THERE. xD

      Very true! I love the image of the dialogue drowning in the lake ... I FEEL THAT. XD I hope your stretch is stretching on.

      Again, SO TRUE! There *are* a lot of people in the world. My friend is reading TCATT atm (!!!) and says she's fangirling over it. So I'd been really stressed bc I gave it to her last week but had had no update but didn't want to pressure her like ARE YOU READING IT so I was just living in limbo (all right, I'm being a drama queen, but still, THIS IS MY CHILD WE'RE TALKING ABOUT), but today she texted me saying “Freddie is a bae" and I nearly fell over! I'M SO EXCITED!

      I'm glad <333 For me it's the opposite though. You know how they say, tidy desk tidy mind? I feel like the order of my room symbolises the order of my room, so I really find it impossible to write in if it's not tidy. Which is good, because it forces me to tidy it daily XD

      Thanks! :D <33

    2. *leaps* Yay! For positive feedback on TCATT! I love getting little replies/ comments on writing like that. I cannot wait to read it! All the characters sound so precious (you aren't going to kill any of them, are you?). No, no. I don't think you were being dramatic at all. I think all of us at some point after giving our writing to someone for reading would have mini panic attacks. Probably akin to Rapunzel from Tangled immediately after leaving the Tower (or at least that's what I'm like at that point). . . Dramatic, yes. But completely in the job description, so there's no shame. XD

      That is good though!


      Why does this keep happening??

      The key points: a) my characters ARE precious but b)I cannot reveal any killing information ;) and c) that scene in Tangled = my whole life XD


Thanks for commenting! :)