Don’t give up the daydream

You’ve heard the old saying. Somebody does something stupid, or funny, or badly, and you go, “Don’t give up the day job”. And usually it’s comic effect – haha, we all laugh, how funny, and go about our merry way. Because silly Sandra never really planned on being a professional juggler, or an impressionist, or whatever. She’s quite happy doing whatever it is she’s doing.

But I’m here as the advocate of daydreams – and their bigger, badder cousin, The Dream. Because I have A Dream (a song to sing…) and I’m sure as hell not giving up on it.

Continue reading “Don’t give up the daydream”

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World Book Day

It was World Book Day and if I was dressing up as someone out of literature I think I would have to be the Yorkshire Shepherdess, what with all the farming and such. We were up at the farm feeding up and tidying up and went to pick up a new calf, bringing our total to 7 (including the one with her mother). Only 3 are on milk so that’s not too bad. Where the calves are there is no running water so I have to lug a great drum of hot water about and it’s no easy task. My arms ache, especially when I can’t open the gate because the pin is too stiff for me, I can’t lift said drum over it because I’m too short, so instead I wedge it through the biggest gap in the fence I can find. It’s an ordeal, but looking after calves is my favourite bit so far so I don’t mind.

I think the Yorkshire Shepherdess is a fine person to look up to, and she’s certainly more relevant to World Book Day than the kid my mum saw in a Chelsea kit. The Chelsea Annual? Mmm, I think that’s pushing it a bit. Whenever I’m up at the farm and it’s chucking it down or I’m tired or struggling (read most days), I think to myself what would the Yorkshire Shepherdess do, and I find a reserve of strength (aka desperation) and I get on with it. I’m usually told off later for doing something wrong but I’m sure there are worse things that could happen.

But we all know farming isn’t my big interest. Oh, no. The big thing is the writing thing.

I have 3 weeks to finish my first book in my self-imposed deadline, in time for the How to Get Published conference at the York Literature Festival. I have about 12-15 chapters left to write, depending on how fast I can write/how ruthless I can be. Considering I’ve just written Chapter Twenty-Seven, which in my previous draft corresponded to Chapter Forty-Five, I don’t think I’ve done too bad in my cutting frenzy. It’s hard to fit writing in alongside everything else there is to do: the farm, feed calves, keep the house clean, do washing, rush about getting clothes in when it rains, cook tea, endless reams of washing up, panic about money and how I’m going to pay bills. I’m also going to be starting to work again come April, and before that there’s lambing to worry about. I stuck to my 500 words a day goal, but I think I might have to up it to at least 1500 a day, just so I can get some text down.

Part of developing as a writer is of course being a reader. I love reading – always have done, always will do. I studied Literature at uni at undergraduate and postgrad levels, have filled three houses up with books. As an only child, reading was a way to occupy myself when there was nobody about to play with (until I got a Gameboy, and then catching Pokemon was so much more exciting, but even then, I think I enjoyed reading the strategy guide more than playing the actual game). Reading seemed to naturally lead to writing. When I didn’t have my own stories and characters in my head, I rewrote existing stories, an exercise that helped me in turn appreciate story arcs, purpose and intent.

Being currently a frugal writer on a strict budget, there’s no space for book buying. Saying that, I did go to the second hand bookshop in Pickering a few weeks ago and buy two of Terry Brooks’s Shannara books (can anyone tell me if Book 1 is essential, as I’ve heard it’s vastly different to the subsequent two?). As part of my Goodreads Challenge I’m trying to read books I already have. In my early twenties, while most girls frittered their money away on posh makeup and going out dresses and holidays here, there and everywhere, little old me spent hers on books, music and car insurance. Hence why I can fill three houses with books and CDs and part a car at each house. Not that Millie the Puma can move at the moment.

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I know some people see reading as a waste of time, but the same could be said for watching TV, movies, sitting on Facebook. I use reading in a similar way that I write: for a moment, an evening, half an hour in the bath, I can completely forget my own silly little life and petty problems, and immerse myself in other peoples’ lives. Stories touch us in different ways and there are some books that I feel have changed my life, or my viewpoint, or have opened my eyes – The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing, If This is a Man by Primo Levi, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, plus countless others. I’ve read His Dark Materials at so many different points in my life and each time it speaks to me in a different way, a huge accomplishment for what is often simply categorised as a children’s book.

Also, so excited about Philip Pullman’s next series about Lyra!

When I have a child, alongside that child running around outside, playing and learning, understanding the importance of time, and money, and kindness, and gratitude, I will spend time reading with them. I have my mother’s set of Narnia books that she had as a girl and those will go to this as yet imaginary child. And of course if writing is to be (as I hope) my occupation, I’d like my child to understand the worth of that, and the importance of imagination, even if they have no desire to write (which is OK too).

So books are important, yay? I have big plans to make a study/library in Grandad’s house, and that will be my writing cave, where behind closed doors, the magic will (hopefully) happen.

Katy

#my500words reflection

So, after a month of trying to stick to writing 500 words a day minimum, how have I done?

Well, there were a couple of days where I didn’t write anything, despite all my best intentions. Sometimes it just happens like that – there might be a lot of things going on at the farm, and by the time we get home I just collapse on the sofa. There was some success with getting up a bit earlier and managing my 500 words before breakfast, but other days I could snatch some time before cooking tea. A few days it would be the bare 500 I could manage, however I’m happy to say a lot of days it was a good more than 500.

In total, over the month I wrote 14 chapters, so it averages out as just under a chapter per two days. Some of these chapters are barefaced edits – straight rewrites of previous chapters I have been happy with. Others have had to be complete overhauls. And I have been quite ruthless. A lot of chaff has been cut. To put it into real terms, I’m writing what is now Chapter Seventeen, but in the second draft equated to about Chapter Twenty-Five. There are still one or two chapters that I have rewritten that could potentially be for the chop. And within the chapters themselves, I’ve gone from a single chapter easily exceeding 10,000 words to a much more realistic 5,000. My only concern is I’ve maybe been a little overenthusiastic with my executioner’s axe!

I’ve really enjoyed taking part in #my500words. More than anything else, it’s been a personal motivator, and it’s worked. There were 69 chapters in total for #MFB (make of that what you will). If I can manage to cut 7 out of the first 25, maybe I can do the same over the next part. We are however coming to the end of the part that was for me the most indulgent. I’ve had to do some serious chopping and changing to streamline this part, but at least now I’m happy with its continuity, and I feel it reads a good deal better.

So I will continue with writing a minimum of 500 words a day. I have a feeling I will hit something of a mental block in a few chapters’ time, as previously I have had issues with timing and locations for my character, so if I miss a day of writing, I would hope it’s for the sake of ironing out some continuity issues.

How is your writing going? Are you on track? Do you have any motivational tools you use to help you get on? If you do, I’d love to hear them!

Katy

Writing Goals for 2017

A couple of days ago I did something quite major for me, and booked myself a place at the How To Get Published conference, part of the York Literature Festival. I think all the ladies in my Writing Group will be attending, so it should be a good day. It’s a full day packed full of talks and discussions, not to mention a panel of writers and literary agents (!) I’m hoping it will be really helpful.

I’ve always written but never had the confidence to go to anything like this before. Last year I went to a free talk as part of York’s Festival of Ideas (and I wrote about it here) and that was all about the benefits of a Writing Group, which is how I found my group. After attending the sessions I’ve got a bit more confidence about myself, so I bit the bullet and booked myself on the conference.

The conference is at the end of March which gives me just over 2 months to get my act together and *finish* the third draft of #MFB. It also coincides with a new time in my calendar, that of lambing. Now granted we don’t know when this will start or how long it will go on for, but as far as I know the world stops for lambing time. So my idea is to get this third draft bossed by then, so I can a) have lambing time to distance myself from it and approach it afterwards with new eyes, and b) have something in a form like finished to talk to agents about.

So that’s one goal for 2017. But I have some others, and I figured if I wrote them here and stuck them on the internet I might actually have to honour them, as opposed to having them in my brain and thus easy to forget.

  • Writing Goals for 2017
  • Finish draft three of #MFB
  • Draw maps for locations in #MFB
  • Set up a Facebook page to directly link my writing progress with my social media
  • Work on my blog, including updating the images and dividing it into ‘writing’ and ‘blog’
  • Increase my activity on social media
  • Attend more writing and literature events (online and in person)
  • Enter some competitions
  • Look at #MSB and decide on how old my protagonist is going to be

I think that’s enough to keep me going for the year! Who knows – things might change. I’m really excited about the conference but it’s a long way off yet and I have lots to be doing before then.

Do you have any writing goals this year? Maybe you’re going to the conference too! Let me know!

Katy

Two weeks into #my500words, and a missed day

One of my big aims for the year is to nail Draft Three of #MFB and be in a position to maybe tentatively send it off to people who read and make dreams come true. I started #my500words this January, aiming to write 500 words a day for 31 days, and it went really, really well until yesterday, when I wrote nothing. I should have known I was doomed when I tweeted about how well my progress was going! It had snowed a little bit yesterday morning and instead of getting up early and writing my 500 words before breakfast, I was still laid in bed, watching it snow. And I didn’t go up to the farm, but I did a load of washing, swept and mopped the downstairs floors, did a load of ironing and baked some chocolate cupcakes. All non-essential when it comes to being a writer, though when it comes to being a “housewife”, which I think most people view me to be, all required tasks. I am fairly houseproud and every day it horrifies me that my house is such a mess, with muddy floors and a kitchen table with no space to dine off. But it also horrifies me and fills me with that feeling of waste when I don’t do any writing whatsoever.

There’s no excuse for why it didn’t happen. We went to my parents’ in the afternoon to mend the tractor and there was nothing for me to do except sit and get more frustrated. Then after taking the tractor up to the farm we came home, I cooked tea, and after we’d eaten I was tired and we just sat and watched rubbish on TV. Now I wake up this morning feeling like yesterday was a waste of a day! Sure, people say it’s good to have time off, but when my writing is constantly playing out in my head, there’s never time off. I’ll never get anywhere if I keep taking time off.

So it was one day. A blip. Since starting #my500words, I’ve actually completed 5 chapters for #MFB. I’ve written more than two weeks’ worth of 500 words all in all, so that’s a good accomplishment. I’ve cut out a lot of chaff, including a whole chapter’s worth. I’ve streamlined the plot a little, and turned characters and incidents around. Finally, I’m getting excited about it again.

So yeah, I missed one day! Big deal. Get over yourself, self. Today is a new day. I have my writing group today, and then the rest of the day to write, write, write. If I can do 5 chapters every two weeks, in four months I’ll be romping home.

How do you get back on the writing train after a hiccup? I’d love to hear your tips on motivation and how you keep at it!

Katy

A new year dawns

It’s that time of year – behold, the New Year, New Me promises! I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions. If I decide I need to sort something out mid-year, I’ll do it then, rather than wait until the next January to do it. But that doesn’t mean to say I never have goals in mind for each year – sometimes they’re so subconscious even I don’t know about them…

In 2015 my goals were to get my own place and change my job for something closer to home. I was commuting to Hull every day and the company I was working for were relocating into the city centre. It was already taking me at least an hour and a half to get to work, and easily more on an evening. And so in August 2015 I started looking for a house, and I got my keys for Casa Katy in December and was halfway through my notice period.

So in 2016 I had the house and the job. What was missing? Oh yeah, the boyfriend! Considering I had just bought my house and didn’t ever want to leave it because it was Mine, I managed to get a boyfriend just by sitting around doing nothing, as mutual friends were playing Cupid, and so in August I met Scott.

So, it’s 2017. I am sans job, but still running Casa Katy like a sinking ship – just the way I like it. Well, it is a little crowded now, with two people, two cats and a Border Collie. But the big goal for 2017 – beyond helping Scott get the farm built up, and sorting my grandad’s house out so we can move in there, and *cries* renting Casa Katy out – is the writing thing.

From about August to November very little writing was done last year. I submitted barely ghost-edited chapters to my writing group and that was about it. I didn’t do a blog post either. Then over the festive period, I started to look at #MFB. As so much time had elapsed I found I couldn’t get back into it, but then I realised the reason I couldn’t get back into it was that I had lost myself in it. So I sat and redrafted it, giving it a much-needed haircut. The end result was more like lopping a few limbs off than just a trim, but I figured I should be cutting down that approximate 350,000 word count. So now I have begun Draft Three, having aborted Draft Two midway through. Abandon ship, and all that. I’m very lucky because Scott understands how important it is to me, and he is encouraging me (i.e. telling me off when he finds me on Facebook!), even though he isn’t a reader at all (though he got two books for Christmas so that could change – hey, if I got my father reading after not picking up a book (that wasn’t a car manual) since school, anything’s possible!).

I found by chance on Twitter a writing campaign #my500words, started by a chap called Jeff Goins, whose blog is full of lots of useful motivating things for aspiring writers like myself, so please have a look here. So this is something I’m going to follow: 500 words a day for 31 days. This is pure writing, no editing, and while I am redrafting from existing copy, I am still writing fresh, especially in the cases where I’m adapting chapters and making new content based on concepts already clumsily made. So far so good – I’m already halfway through chapter two, having exceeded my 500 words most days.

After the 31 days are up, I might adapt the limit again, depending on how far I am through the story. Another thing to bear in mind is that lambing time is approaching, which might sit as a fat spanner in the works, as I have been led to believe that my life will be split between the sheds and home for a kip. Snatching time to write is so far serving me well: getting up a little earlier to sit in the quiet downstairs, or if on odd days I’m not needed, then I can really hammer it home.

I will keep you updated. Meanwhile, any words of encouragement won’t go amiss!

Katy

MFB

You might have seen “MFB” dotted around my posts, elusively made reference to and never explained.

My first book!

This is something I’ve been writing since I was 18, and is by no means the first book I started. I have another novel in my head that I started dreaming of when I was 13/14, and another when I was about 15. Those are in great states of infancy, but MFB is in a much better position for possible publication. Screamy face. Some elements have been borrowed or adapted from another little short story I started when I was 12 – nothing is ever thrown away, it is merely repossessed!

I’ve been writing MFB on and off since I was 18; it was massively influenced by my time at the University of York. Consequently after graduation it fell to the wayside as I was focusing on work and sorting out a life that’s never really got all that much more sorted. I picked it up, playing with it a little more, and put it down again. Other parts expanded, were added, were moved around, and it got to the point where it was a big ole mess and there was no rhyme nor reason, but I knew there was a beating heart in there somewhere. So in September 2015 I decided to sort myself out and go for it. Other things had got in the way: jobs, boyfriends, Masters, PGCEs, summer schools. Not any longer! I was determined, and so determination became. I got a new house, a new job, and a new sense of vitality. Continue reading “MFB”

Celebrating 26 years of my little life

Can you believe I’ll be 26 this weekend? I can’t! It feels like two minutes ago I turned 25. I still feel like I’m a wee little teenager, and judging by the amount of times I get ID’d, I must look it, too! I don’t know whether to be insulted or overjoyed when the cashiers in Morrisons question as to whether I am old enough to purchase a bottle of rose. It seems to be happening less and less, though, which is a little worrying. Either that, or they know me as a regular – still, the worry remains. Continue reading “Celebrating 26 years of my little life”

Half a Year Gone Already

Can you believe it’s July 2016 already?

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I’ve been living in my little house for over six months now! Simultaneously it feels like time has flown by yet like I’ve lived here for a long time. I’ve had quite a few big changes, including starting a new job, and moving into my little house. Both of those things were arranged last year, and they ticked off the two main things on my list of aspirations for the year. Coming out of a time when the media (here’s looking at you, Mailonline) and the general voice of the public seemed to have a downer on young people in general, with a difficult job market and a nigh-unscaleable property ladder, I very quietly set my mind to those two things, and I’m so pleased that I achieved both.

My favourite flowers
My favourite flowers

For 2016 I have the one main goal: to get writing, properly. It’s been easy to get distracted with new house, new job, new kittens, and the new Game of Thrones, but I set my mind to finishing off “My First Book”, shall we vaguely call it. This is a book I’ve had in mind since I was in first year of university, and have dibbed in and out of over the past few years. From about September time last year, I embarked on the not-inconsequential task of pulling together all the random vague chapters and drafting in the remainder, pulling together a sketchy first draft. That came to a close in February of this year, at which point I began the great editing process. As it stands, I’m about halfway through, having cut down on about ten chapters so far, and rejigging a lot of the pacing, action and some of the relationships. So far I am still really enjoying it.

It’s been quite an intense half a year so far, from a horrible start into a gloomy, dark sort of non-summer.

Bursts of colour
Bursts of colour

Things I’ve enjoyed so far

  • Wheel of Time – I finally finished this mega series! I actually cried at the end, and was pleased with its final execution, especially when you consider its original author and instigator, Robert Jordan, died before the last few volumes were to see the light of day. I’ve got the prequel to read yet, so it’s not quite over for me.
  • Game of Thrones – obviously! I got Sky TV just in time for series 6, which has gone beyond the books now. The past couple of years have seen me get back into a fantasy zone, which is great, considering MFB is definitely in the fantasy genre, though quite a different take to WoT, which is straight-up epic fantasy on a far-reaching, dazzling magical scale, and GoT, which is a much more human, visceral approach on it, with a smattering of zombies and soaring dragons flitting here and there.
  • Living in Casa Katy! While paying for everything is a bit annoying, I really like my little house. I have a lovely little corner set up for writing, and my front room is coming together nicely, as is my little garden, which I’m looking forward to working on a bit more once this summer *hopefully* gets underway… will it… ever? Who knows!

Things I’m looking forward to

  • Finishing MFB’s second draft. It’s picking up a bit of momentum in the middle section now, and I’m excited to charge on through, and see how things go. I’m adding structural pieces and frames to tighten things up, and I’m getting a definite buzz.
  • Winds of Winter – who isn’t? And is it ever coming? 2016 might be over and we might not be anywhere. One can dream.
  • My birthday! The mid-point of the year of course brings my little birthday, and without the summer school to distract me, I can look forward to it, though July as a whole is a busy little month anyway. I haven’t any special plans for my birthday as such, though I’m going to the Great Yorkshire Show so that will be exciting.
  • Summer in Casa Katy – I’ve bought some nice cushions for my patio furniture and it’s done nothing but rain since I got them. I would like to get them out of the plastic wrapping sometime, please.
Come back, Mr Sunshine!
Come back, Mr Sunshine!

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Little Storyteller – Juvenilia: A Little Life in Scribbles and Dreams

Delving into Juvenilia: Reflecting back on my scribbles and dreams…

A life of scribbles and dreams!
A life of scribbles and dreams!

While I’ve been conducting my Minimalist March Purge (see here: https://notmuchofayoungfarmer.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/decluttering-march-the-month-of-minimalism/) I came across my old stash of handwritten notes, compiling probably half of my Juvenilia. I do have distant dreams of all these scraps of paper being collected up one day, by a bored postgraduate in an archive somewhere or else by my biggest fan, and compiled into a nice big compendium, chronicling where my genius began.

Then when I found it all, I read through it, and realised I was definitely living in a bubble both under the misguided comprehension that I was indeed at all talented and within my own ego.

So this is what happened:

Minimalist March - more of that juvenile writer's life.shreddingIt might seem harsh to shred things that I obviously (upon close inspection) had spent a great deal of time and effort over. But it was probably something on a lower rung from juvenilia, if I’m totally honest: very much baby writing. It will have shaped the stuff I’ve written in earnest since – characters, plot lines and themes have all persevered and in some places blossomed – but there wasn’t much I can do with it. All of it is inside my head anyway.

I have learnt a bit about myself through doing this: I’ve been able to view my current writing in a different light, and revisit things that had once been so important, and which might still contribute to changing my writing for the better.

When I’m interviewing, we often talk about teaching as being a career that is constantly changing, where you are always learning new things and improving, and that is what draws most people in, and is what I thought had drawn me in, but in actual fact, terrified me. On the flipside, I have come to realise that my current writing has been stagnating: it desperately needed to change, evolve; it needed a fresh outlook, in all honesty. So while it was hard initially to feed those first few pages into my shredder, it was useful to do.

Like Nora in The Siren, one of my favourite books (guilty pleasure!) which I may one day review if it’s not a little close to the nerve, who shreds chapters because they aren’t strictly fiction; I too felt like I was shredding the parts that were a little too close to reality…

So now I can put it to a different use! I will use it to line the trenches that my beans will grow in this year. Reusing, recycling!

This has been quite a serious post. Apologies! Minimalist March is very much almost at its end, and I’ve done… what? I’ve cleared out six bags of clothes, three bags of books, listed a whole bunch of stuff on eBay, taken some bits and bobs to the charity shop, aaaand… that’s it. I’ve done a room! Bully for me.

Roll on Minimalist April!

Love Katy

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