Digging for a first draft.

I’ve watched quite a lot of the Chelsea flower show coverage this week. I love it. I grew up in a house where there are always flowers, with a garden that’s always colourful and welcoming. My grandparents’ house was the same too – my grandad was a wonderful gardener. I think growing up around lovely gardens filled with beautiful flowers has definitely instilled that same love in me and so things like a week full of programmes from Chelsea makes me incredibly happy.

Watching the coverage I was interested to listen to the gardeners behind the stunning show gardens talk about the process. I was particularly interested to hear Tracy Foster, the creator of the Welcome to Yorkshire garden, talk about there being a point where the garden all seemed awful but then by carrying on bit by bit it all fell into place and took shape. 

I think this rings true for a lot of creative things. I certainly think it applies for writing. Or at the very least I hope it does. I’m currently at that stage with my first draft. It’s spiralled away from me more than a little and I’m trying to work out how to tame it and get it back under control. I feel encouraged by the idea that this might just be the stage I’m at and that if I just keep going it’s going to fall in place and I’ll end up with something vaguely coherent. I may not end up with a beautiful garden filled with colourful flowers at the end, but I think the sense of achievement of being able to write The End will be just as welcome a reward. 


Keeping on keeping on.

I blogged a couple of weeks back about starting to write creatively again, and about how it was all feeling very positive. Since then I’ve continued on a really positive streak with it, I passed the ten thousand word mark by the end of my second week of writing and it’s still feeling like lots of fun.

I’ve set myself a daily writing goal of 1,000 words but I’ve not set myself a goal for how many days I should be writing. The more writing advice I’ve read the more I’ve realised finding your own way is the best thing you can do. There are still so many who say you absolutely have to write each and every day, but this doesn’t sit well with me and so I’m not pushing myself to do it any more. I’ve actually found that I’ve exceeded my daily goal each and every day, even on the days when I’ve found it hard to get going I’ve ended up finding my rhythm and going at least a little past it.

One thing I have done is to establish an Excel spreadsheet for this project (it’s truly amazing that there are still people in my life who don’t realise I’m a huge geek, after all I hide it so well). It’s got all sorts of tabs, from a character list tab to a tab where I record my daily words, and best of all a tab that contains a giant graph that automatically updates with my day’s writing and shows me how much ahead of my 1,000 words a day goal I am. I am hugely motivated by visual representations of progress (I write all my words on a website that displays a star for every 100 words you write and a gold star for every 1,000) so I’m finding this graph is making a big difference to me.

Most of all I’m having fun. I already know that when I reach the end of this draft there is going to be so much work to do in order to edit it into something I’m willing to let anyone else see. I’m not getting bothered by that though, I’m remembering the Terry Pratchett quote that “the first draft is just you telling yourself the story” and enjoying the experience.


Once more with feeling.

I’ve started writing again this week. Towards the end of last year I had got into a fairly good writing routine in as much as I was actually writing consistently on a project. The Christmas break and then the decision to move home from London saw this new habit fall by the wayside, the longer I was away from writing the harder I was finding it to work out how to get back to it.

Last week I opened my work in progress for the first time in months and felt almost entirely lost. I’d been getting increasingly lost as I was writing it, there was no direction and what I thought I’d started out writing had all but disappeared. Reading it back confirmed that I’d lost my way and there’s no map to be found. There’s still parts of it I like a lot, but it doesn’t feel like the thing I should be focusing my attention on at the moment.

Yesterday I started on something completely new. It’s not just a new project but a new direction in almost every way. It’s aimed at an entirely different audience and has a completely different feel to anything I’ve worked on in years. I feel more excited about it and settled with in than I’ve felt about any writing for almost as long as I can remember.

Maybe this is all just new project enthusiasm. I’d love to think that it feels so different this time because it is different this time. I’m certainly different so why can’t my writing be? I get the feeling I’m going to enjoy this draft and who knows what might happen next.


Starting NaNoWriMo. Again.

I have, like in many previous years, decided to do NaNoWriMo. The book I’m going to be working on through November is one that brings together elements I’ve been planning for a long time – characters and scenes that have been in my thoughts and notebooks for months and in some cases years.

I’m feeling ready to write and so NaNoWriMo feels like the perfect time to get started. The idea of getting 50,000 words written feels daunting, particularly when I worked out I’m going to be away from home for 10 of the 30 days on November. I’ve decided therefore to have a personal goal separate to the NaNo total – if I get to the end of the month and have written 1,000 words every day I will have established an excellent writing habit and I’ll have the first 30,000 words of my novel. I think this is a great goal, and while I still will be aiming for the full 50K I know I will feel like I’ve achieved something if I hit that personal goal.

Regardless of whether I end the month with 30,000, 50,000 or something in between I definitely won’t be finishing the month with a finished first draft. I think it’s going to probably take at least December and January to get a full first draft. I’m using this first draft to explore my story and my characters and work out exactly what it is they have to say. I know where they’re starting, I know where they’re going to end up and I know a few of the things they’re going to be doing along the way. The rest of it I look forward to discovering as I write. 

Baking · Blogging · Craft · Personal · Photography · Writing

New and Improving.

AKA The post where I talk about last year’s not really resolutions and set this year’s not really resolutions.

Last year instead of making specific resolutions I decided I was going instead to try and make a couple of changes in how I thought. I decided I was going to get back to focusing on the positives (for various reasons I’d started to fall into the trap of focusing on the negatives which was really out of character for me) and I was going to be more grateful for all the things in my life that made me happy. I definitely feel like over the course of the year I did quite well with this, my positivity has returned and I often catch myself before I focus on the negative of something. I don’t do it always of course, it’s a work in progress but one I feel content about continuing.

This year I’ve decided to do something different. It’s shaping up to be a year of change in many ways and I thought I would use that as my inspiration. I’ve thought about a lot of the things I love to do and I’ve decided for each area of my interests something I want to try and something I want to get better at. Here’s the list:

New – Sweet treats.
I want to start making sweets and truffles, and anything else little and sweet. I had the Sweets Made Simple recipe book and a sugar thermometer for my birthday so I’m looking forward to a year of experimentation and tasting!

Improve – Making biscuits.
Making biscuits. I bake lots of cakes but always avoid biscuits, I haven’t had great success with gluten free biscuits so always return to cakes which work. This year I’m going to get better at biscuits.

New – Project Life.
This year I’m going to start Project Life, a journalling / memory keeping technique. I have plenty to say about starting this so expect a blog post in the next few days dedicated to it.

Improve – Crochet.
I taught myself how to crochet around 20 years ago but didn’t really keep it up and now barely remember any of it. I’ve been pinning all sorts of cute patterns to my boards on Pinterest so this year I’m going to brush up my skills and start making some of them.

New – Photo editing.
Despite taking loads of photos I’ve never developed any editing skills whatsoever. This year I’m going to start learning how to make the most of my photos once they’re taken.

Improve – People photos.
Taking photos of people, particularly grown ups is something I’m not very good at. The majority of the photos I take are of views, flowers, objects and young children – basically things that don’t talk, or don’t require significant interaction. I always feel very awkward approaching the idea of taking photos of people so end up avoiding doing it, but this year I’m going to try to get much better at it.

New – finishing a novel.
This is probably the one thing on the list that I feel most strongly about. I have started and stepped away from a good number of novels, never having the courage to push through to the end. This will be the year when this changes though, I will finish a novel and put it away and then get it back out and start learning how to edit something creative.

Improve – blogging.
I talked recently about stepping away from reviewing books on my blog (expect news about how and where I will be reviewing them later this month) and returning to a more general blog. I want to improve two things in my blogging that are entirely linked – I want to improve the frequency of my posts and I want to be better at writing longer posts. I don’t feel like I have established my blogging voice – spending so long writing reviews and writing academic things has definitely had an impact so this is what I want to improve over the year.


There we have it. 8 plans for the year, 4 things to try and 4 things to get better at. All of them are things I want to be blogging about so hopefully it should be pretty easy to track my progress over the year.

Blogging · Life · Writing

Who are you reading?

I’m trying at the moment to work out the sort of blogger I want to be here. The process of dividing my blog into two hasn’t gone exactly the way I’d expected it to, though I’m starting to see some real progress with Juniper’s Jungle and now feel I can figure here out better.

I’ve been around blogging for a long, long time. I haven’t blogged continually since I first started, but the gaps have never been very long. In the time I have been blogging I’ve seen bloggers come and go, and blogging platforms come and go. Social media as a whole has, I think, had a huge impact on blogging in the last few years – I saw this quote a little while ago which made me think:

“…I feel that the nature of blogging has changed. I think twitter and instagram are filling the niche of ‘telling us what’s happening now’, and blogs are becoming more like archives of great information.”
(Stacey Trock of Fresh Stitches, from Bugs and Fishes’ Crafty Ladies feature)

I’m not sure I entirely agree with this, the first part I think yes absolutely. The latter part, well I’m not so sure. There’s certainly much more immediate discussion going on, but I know I still love to read longer, more detailed posts than Twitter or Instagram can ever convey. There are some things that blogging still does that I’m not sure anywhere else fully replicates. Tumblr is probably the one possible grey area, I personally tend to follow picture heavy Tumblr accounts on Tumblr itself and more traditional blog style Tumblrs in my Feedly (though of course still make sure I go and hit that heart button on the posts I’m loving).

The problem is, I’ve been reading the majority of the blogs I read for a long time now. Some are no longer updated or if they are posts come once in a blue moon. Some are just no longer relevant to my life or interests and I find myself hitting the mark as read button more often than not. Then there are those blogs I look forward to every time I open my Feedly account. I’ve recently added a handful of crafty bloggers and can already feel my enthusiasm for blogging returning. I want to shake things up further, I want to add some new feeds and discover some new bloggers and that’s where I want your recommendations please.

Who are the bloggers you look forward to seeing updates from? Please send me all of your recommendations – they don’t need to update daily or even weekly, just somewhat regularly and with interesting posts when they do. I’m not too fussy about subject matter either, they don’t have to be book bloggers or craft bloggers, just great bloggers please.

Geek Stuff · Life · Writing

What I’ve learned from Chicks Dig Time Lords

I’ve been sitting on this blogpost for a very long time. Months and months in fact. Which in itself is pretty relevant to the subject matter of it.

imageWhen I first heard about the book Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It I have to admit I was puzzled by it. The title seemed to sum me up, I am after all a female fan of Doctor Who, but I didn’t really understand why the book was necessary. I don’t watch and enjoy Doctor Who or any of the other geeky or sporty things I like differently because I’m female, so why was it necessary to have a book about being a female fan?

It was released and I heard positive things about the book but remained bemused. Then the nominations for the 2011 Hugo Awards were announced and Chicks Dig Time Lords was nominated in the Best Related Work category, and went on to win it. I decided I probably needed to give the book a go to see if I could work out why it was so highly regarded, bought a copy of it and put it on my bookshelf.

Roll on spring 2013, my understanding of a lot of things had changed and my eyes had become opened to many new things (the internet is a wonderful educator). For reasons I absolutely do not remember I picked up my copy of Chicks Dig Time Lords and started to read the first essay. I read a handful of essays on my first sitting, and then over the next few months read the whole book an essay or two at a time – wanting to spread them out and give myself time to think about what they’d had to say.

I was so very wrong in my first assessment of the book. I completely misinterpreted what the book was about and why it existed. The book isn’t a collection of essays about being a female Whovian, it’s a collection of essays by and about Whovians who happen to be females. And that is such an important distinction, one I needed time and learning to be able to spot, let alone understand.

For all manner of geeky things there are a range of publications both print and digital that give fans a voice. I’m aware that whilst these publications exist women’s contributions are generally less common than men’s. That is what this book has done – it’s given a safe space for women to share their thoughts and opinions. I do think the balance has started to shift a little since the book was published in 2009, but there’s still such a very long way to go.

As a female geek and sports fan I have always known that my voice is a quiet, frequently unheard and sometimes unwelcome one. My presence in both arenas has not been without its difficulties, my gender has time and again gone against me – from dismissive comments assuming the nature of my interest (apparently it’s all about the hot men) to suggestions that my knowledge needed to be tested to ensure I did genuinely belong there. My stories are sadly common amongst female fans, and I count myself lucky (and isn’t that in itself a sad state of affairs) that my experiences whilst irritating, patronising and downright unreasonable are firmly at the very mild end of the scale of the abuse experienced by other women.

I have plenty of thoughts and opinions on the things I am passionate about. I shy away from sharing them publicly, particularly on my blog. There have been odd posts over the years, but far too many times there have been little voices telling me I don’t know enough, don’t have the background, don’t belong, shouldn’t be writing about that particular topic. And so I haven’t.

(As an aside, the one post I did write that always comes to mind is the one I wrote on my old blog about The Sarah Jane Adventures. Someone whose opinion I really respect read it, and misinterpreted a really ambiguous sentence I’d written. They commented about it, and it still makes me cringe to remember years after. A lesson learnt.)

This is the year I’m going to make a change. I have this space all of my own and I’m going to use it to be me. I’m going to write posts about things I love and care about, and actually hit the publish button. I’m going to write more posts about the random thoughts that often fill my brain, things that leave me pondering but I convince myself no one else could possibly care about.

One of my concerns about writing about these things is that I won’t be any good at it – but as I tell my Beaver Scouts the only way to get better at something is to practice. I think it’s about time I took my own advice. I’m going to ignore the voice in my head that comes up with all the reasons why I shouldn’t, I’m going to stop caring about the fact I’m a girl, stop caring about the fact I might get something a bit wrong, and I’m going to take the leap and just get on with it.

My blog, my thoughts, and there’s no one who can tell me what I can and can’t do.


Writing right.

A quick post today, I’ve just finished reading Stacked’s fortnightly, always brilliant, Links of Note post and read something I knew I had to share on my own blog.

Writing is something I spend a lot of time thinking about, talking about and doing. This post of Tips For Writers from The Belle Jar is pretty wonderful, lovely words of encouragement and support such as:

Write because you have a secret fire burning inside of you and the only way that you can fan the flames is by sharing your thoughts with someone else.

Write because you’re bored and don’t have anything better to do.

Write for yourself.

Write for other someone else, or maybe everyone else.

You’ll have to go and read the post for the rest of the brilliance, it’s worth it. And then get writing!


National Poetry Day

Today is National Poetry Day so I thought I would share one of the poems I remember dearly from my childhood, a poem that’s wonderful to read out loud.

Colonel Fazackerley Butterworth Toast by Charles Causley.

Colonel Fazackerley Butterworth-Toast
Bought an old castle complete with a ghost,
But someone or other forgot to declare
To Colonel Fazak that the spectre was there.

On the very first evening, while waiting to dine,
The Colonel was taking a fine sherry wine,
When the ghost, with a furious flash and a flare,
Shot out of the chimney and shivered, ‘Beware!’

Colonel Fazackerley put down his glass
And said, ‘My dear fellow, that’s really first class!
I just can’t conceive how you do it at all.
I imagine you’re going to a Fancy Dress Ball?’

At this, the dread ghost made a withering cry.
Said the Colonel (his monocle firm in his eye),
‘Now just how you do it, I wish I could think.
Do sit down and tell me, and please have a drink.’

The ghost in his phosphorous cloak gave a roar
And floated about between ceiling and floor.
He walked through a wall and returned through a pane
And backed up the chimney and came down again.

Said the Colonel, ‘With laughter I’m feeling quite weak!’
(As trickles of merriment ran down his cheek).
‘My house-warming party I hope you won’t spurn.
You MUST say you’ll come and you’ll give us a turn!’

At this, the poor spectre – quite out of his wits –
Proceeded to shake himself almost to bits.
He rattled his chains and he clattered his bones
And he filled the whole castle with mumbles and moans.

But Colonel Fazackerley, just as before,
Was simply delighted and called out, ‘Encore!’
At which the ghost vanished, his efforts in vain,
And never was seen at the castle again.

‘Oh dear, what a pity!’ said Colonel Fazak.
‘I don’t know his name, so I can’t call him back.’
And then with a smile that was hard to define,
Colonel Fazackerley went in to dine.


What’s in a name?

My biggest problem when it comes to writing is titles. It always has been, I remember being incredibly relieved when it came to my GCSE English creative writing coursework and the only thing we were given was the title “Behind The Wall”. I’ve been blogging a long long time now, and naming posts doesn’t feel any easier than it did when I started over a decade ago, if anything it feels harder.

Book blogging is a great way around this problem, the title for a post is pretty much determined by its content – posts tend to be either a review or news so little imagination is needed. Throughout my blogging life however there have been more posts than I care to remember that have never seen the light of day because I didn’t have a title for them. The maddening thing is that I know some of them were really, really good posts.

Realising that I have this problem has helped me to realise why Livejournal has worked so well for me, I’ve had a number of journals over there and the Friendslist structure makes post titles pretty unimportant, I could just write what I wanted and post it without having to worry about titling it.

So what am I going to do? I see other bloggers using brilliantly witty and clever titles and know that I can’t do that, it’s not the way my brain works. I’m not witty or good at puns, so that’s definitely out. I figure I either continue to spend so much time worrying about it and not blogging as a result, or I just accept that my titles are never going to be imaginative and focus on making sure the post itself is the very best it can be. Hopefully this month’s blogging effort will help me to make the latter my automatic stance.