IWSG

Reading and writing: genre specific or open to all? – an IWSG post #IWSG

Happy March everyone! The weather is finally beginning to turn for the better here, the sun is starting to shine properly and I’m no longer hugging the radiators quite so much. All good things to make for a more cheerful and positive disposition!

I had a major dip in February, with too much of it spent feeling negative and down. But with the improved weather comes an improved outlook, something I also get from being a part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG). The main sign-up page has all the details you need to join in, so let’s get to it!

The co-hosts for March are Sarah – The Faux Fountain Pen, Jacqui Murray, Chemist Ken, Victoria Marie Lees, Natalie Aguirre and JQ Rose (thank you guys!) and we’re talking about everyone’s favourite genre or genres to write. And what about your reading preferences? Do you read widely or only within the genre(s) you create stories for? What motivates your reading choice?

Favourite writing genres

I’m not entirely sure I have a favourite genre to write, I just like to write if and when I can, but once I get started my writing does tend to start moving in particular directions. I like to think about behaviours and relationships and what would happen if a character made a particular decision to do something, but before long the story usually starts to move towards the fantastical, mystical and otherworldly. Even when I try and ground myself in something more real-life, there’s still an element of the supernatural about it, whether it’s a secret power that someone’s hiding or a visitor from another planet trying to find their way around.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Reading preferences

My first loves of reading are science fiction and fantasy. I love thinking about the possibilities of things ‘other’ than this world and where those possibilities can take a person/character. For me, nothing is really far-fetched if it’s established and believable enough in it’s own world. I also love a good thriller, as well as classics and contemporary. To be honest, I’ll read pretty much anything and it’s good to take in something different every now and then.

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

I certainly don’t limit my reading to a particular genre or two, although I may go through a phase of sticking to one. Sooner or later I vary my reading choices though and will move on to something different.

The last few books I’ve read have been recommendations from friends, and at work there is a basket full of books and we have a bit of read and share thing going on (quarantine procedures and Covid protocols firmly in place, of course). I am looking forward to being able to wander around a bookshop again and pick up whatever takes my fancy. I’d forgotten that I’d missed that until writing this post 😢

So, how about you? What genres do you read/write about, and do you stick to one/a few or shake it up and see what you get?

Books · Reading

2020 in books

Last year I had a good year for reading, getting through 31 books in total. Now, I know what some of you are thinking: ‘31? Is that all?’ But for me, that’s pretty good. I love to read, but sometimes it’s hard to get the time to sit and do just that. I can blame life, and responsibility, and everything else that seems to get in the way, but I need to make more of an effort this year to leave all those other boring things and concentrate on the things that I like to do for myself.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

In 2020, I worked my way through a variety of different reads, from autobiographies and TV tie-ins, to furthering my reading of a particular author and picking up something by someone completely new to me.

Some of the books I read were purely for escapism and required little effort to read. My daughter and I started going through the Buffy boxsets during the first lockdown and it made me want to read my tie-in books all over again. I’ve had these books since I was a teenager and, miraculously, I’ve managed to hang on to them despite moving into grownup-ville. I already know the characters pretty well, so it’s nice to just dip straight into their world and get away from everything for a bit.

Other books I enjoyed reading because it really made me think about the ideas within them, and they lingered with me long after I’d finished reading them. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and all three of the Wayfarer books by Becky Chambers did just this. When I finish a book, I can’t just pick up the next one and dive straight in (unless it’s part of a series). I like to savour the end of the story and mull it over before putting it to a close in my mind.

I also love a book that makes me have an emotional response, whether happy or sad, and I’m yet to read a book by Marian Keyes without crying by the end of it. There have also been characters so vivid in their description and characterisation that I felt a real burning hatred for them (Rose Madder, Stephen King) or felt a real part of the team (The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chambers).


What’s in store for 2021 …

My TBR pile is still pretty big, not to mention the list of unread books I’ve got on my Kindle. I had made a deal with myself that I’m not allowed to buy or borrow any more books until I’ve read everything in this pile, but in the time it’s taken me to think about and draft this post I’ve already broken my own rule and downloaded two more new books to read 🤭. Oh well. My goal for 2021 is to get through this pile and a fair few more.

Books that are coming out in 2021 that I’m really excited about include two from Becky Chambers (sorry I keep going on about her, but I really love her books!), The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, which is the final Wayfarers book 😢, and A Psalm for the Wild-Built.

Rachel Joyce also has a new book out in April, Miss Benson’s Beetle, just in time for my birthday. (OK, so I think this one’s out already but I’m waiting for the paperback so it matches all my others 😁.)


What did your 2020 look like in terms of reading? Anything you could recommend? Get in touch, I’d love to know.

For a full list of what I read in 2020, please go here.

IWSG

Distractions and annoyances (in writing, not people) – an IWSG post #IWSG

A very happy new year to everyone! As I write this, my first post of 2021, I’m contemplating what the year may hold. There are so many things beyond our control right now, but one thing that is in my control is my blog, my writing and where I want to go with it.

And what better place to start than with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG). The main sign-up page has all the details you need to join in, in whatever capacity you want to, as well as links to everyone taking part. Why not dip your toe in? I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

The co-hosts for the January edition of the IWSG are Ronel Janse van Vuurren, J Lenni Dorner, Gwen Gardner, Sandra Cox and Louise – Fundy Blue.

The question set for this month’s post has us thinking about what stops us from finishing a book, throws us out of the story or frustrates us the most about other people’s books?

One of the main things that can jar my reading of a novel or story is a lack of continuity. I’ll just be settling down and getting to know Jack and his wife Amanda, getting comfortable around their two children and their dog Murphy, and the last thing I want to read is that his wife Alison has run off and abandoned Jack, his three children and their cat.

OK, so this is a pretty extreme example of what I mean, and, thankfully, I’ve never read anything that drifts as much as this, but you get my point. Ensuring that continuity is right, all the way through a story, helps to build trust between author and reader. When I’m reading, if the continuity starts to wander a little I find that I’m constantly checking for other little errors that may have crept in and it distracts me from what’s happening in the story.

Another distraction I come across as a reader, which I appreciate won’t niggle everyone, concerns accurate descriptions and regional terminology. I read a book recently that described a particular children’s tank engine, famous for its bright blue a red colouring. In the book it referred to it as green and yellow and mentioned it as Thomas the Tank Engine. My mental equilibrium was knocked out for quite a while as I tried to reconcile the image with the description, time I should have spent being more absorbed in the story.

In the same book, and not too much further on from the train incident, the main character referred to a sonogram. Now, the book was set in the UK, the characters were British and the book was sold in the UK. I know this doesn’t count for everyone, but I’m sure a good proportion of us Brits would refer to such an event as an ultrasound. Again, my concentration was knocked by this little distraction and it took a while for me to get back in sync with the characters.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Having these niggles about other people’s writing makes me think about my own writing much more critically and I certainly hope that I’m not guilty of any of the above. Hmmm, this seems like a good time to sign off so I can go and check …

How about you? What distracts or puts you off when reading somebody else’s stories?

IWSG

Writing is one of my winter sports – an IWSG post #IWSG

I’m writing this post as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG). This wonderful group contribute on the first Wednesday of every month to inspire, encourage and cheer on fellow writers, no matter what stage of their journey. The main sign-up page has all the details, as well as links to everyone taking part. If you’re struggling with your writing, want to share your success or just want to catch up with fellow writerly folk, then this is the place to go.

The co-hosts for the December edition of the IWSG are Pat Garcia, Sylvia Ney, Liesbet @ Roaming About, Cathrina Constantine and Natalie Aguirre. A huge thank you to you guys!

This month we are talking about whether there are months or times of the year when you are more productive with your writing and why.

I was thinking about this while I was out running this morning, and it occurred to me how many similarities there are between my running brain and my writing brain. In the summer months running can often be an effort, particularly if the weather is hot. Running in the heat certainly takes a lot more out of me, that’s for sure. The summertime also offers more opportunities to be out and about doing things with friends and family (although not in 2020, obvs. 🤭), leaving less time to schedule in many running trips.

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

I find the same with my writing. If it’s too hot during the day, I find it difficult to concentrate on anything for long periods. The heat can sap away at my energy levels fairly quickly, and I turn into Mrs Unreasonable far more often than I’d like to admit.

In the winter, although it can be chilly and wet and windy, I find my running performance improves a lot. As long as I wear enough layers and keep my ears and neck covered, the motion of running itself is enough to keep me warm on my travels.

And with writing, well, there’s nothing better than holing up inside the house when it’s too cold and wet to do much else outside. Reading and writing really are two of the best ways to spend a winter’s evening, especially if you have a gorgeous fire and mug of hot chocolate to keep you company. My word count certainly seems to go up when it’s colder outside.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

How about you? When is your most productive time of the year? Maybe it’s cyclical. I’d love to hear about it, so please do leave a comment and share your writing habits.

IWSG

An apology, and a reason to write – an IWSG post #IWSG

This post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG), an inspiring blog hop for writers of all kinds. For more details go to the main sign-up page, and make sure to drop by a few blogs while you’re there.

The co-hosts for the November edition of the IWSG are Jemi Fraser, Kim Lajevardi, L G Keltner, Tyrean Martinson and Rachna Chhabria. Make sure you head over to see these guys and share some IWSG love!

Each month the IWSG posts a question that can be used in the next blog post, as a guide for sharing thoughts and advice to fellow writers. This month the question is:

Albert Camus once said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” Flannery O’Conner said, “I write to discover what I know.” Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write?

Before I go ahead and answer this question, I’d just like to send my apologies to the fabulous IWSG team. Over the last few months I’ve been trying to get back into good blogging habits, posting more regularly and engaging with you lovely lot. I’ve added myself back on the IWSG sign-up list twice but, due to a severe lack of posting, my blog has been removed, and rightly so. I appreciate the purpose of this here blog hop and it’s a waste of people’s precious time to visit blogs that regularly fail to post anything that contributes.

I’m definitely one for perseverance though, so here I am again, adding my blog back on the list and I am contributing 🎉 Long may it continue …

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

As far as the question goes, I write what I write because otherwise the stories just get stuck in my head. Sometimes it’s just a snippet of something that sits and burrows its way into my subconscious, and other times there’s more of a story and flow, with characters making progress and actually getting somewhere. If I don’t take the time to write it out, it gets stuck in my mind like a broken record, continually going around in a loop until it’s let out and space is made for the next one.

I imagine the answer to this questions is similar for all of us. Yes, it’s nice to have appreciation for our art and maybe, just maybe, some financial reward. But this isn’t the sole reason for writing, at least not for me. I’ve got notebooks and computer space filled with writing that I’ve never shown to anyone. They’re just for me right now, but I’m sure that they’ll see the light of day eventually.

How about you? Why do you write what you write?

IWSG

Form and genre: planning and meandering- an IWSG post #IWSG

This post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG), an inspiring blog hop for writers of all kinds. For more details go to the main sign-up page, and make sure to drop by a few blogs while you’re there.

The co-hosts for the August edition of the IWSG are Susan Baury Rouchard, Nancy Gideon, Jennifer Lane, Jennifer Hawes, Chemist Ken and Chrys Fey. Make sure you head over to see these guys and share some IWSG love!

Each month the IWSG posts a question that can be used in the next blog post, as a guide for sharing thoughts and advice to fellow writers. This month the question is:

Quote: “Although I have written a short story collection, the form found me and not the other way around. Don’t write short stories, novels or poems. Just write your truth and your stories will mould into the shapes they need to be.”
Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn’t planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?

Firstly, happy August everyone! I almost didn’t make it to this month’s IWSG post. The children are now in their summer holidays, which means I have very little time for things like this unless I get up earlier than everyone else and/or stay up later (I chose the former option for this one).

Image by croisy from Pixabay

At the moment, all signs are pointing towards a return to school in September, but at the back of my mind I’m preparing myself for more home schooling/home working/spending way too much time with my children and everything that comes with it all.

Now, to the question: It’s not often that the form I’m writing in has shaped itself into something else. When I’m writing a short story, for example, I’m very aware of the reduced word limit that I’m trying to stick to and the importance of still ticking all the beginning/middle/end boxes that make the story work. This means that I’m actively working to contain the story within the limits of the form. Different methods are used within short story writing to deliberately move the story on swiftly to keep the narrative flowing, and, although the same could be said for longer forms, they can be used slightly differently and over longer periods.

Now genre, that definitely does have a tendency to shape itself into something other than what I’d first intended. When I first started writing I’d usually begin a story with something in the sci-fi/fantasy genres (my favourite for reading and writing), but very quickly I noticed that other genres would creep in, most notably horror, psychological thriller and mystery. I was most surprised by the psychological thriller aspect, and it certainly wasn’t something that I’d ever thought I’d want or be able to write. It does make me wonder how much of a reflection it is on how my mind works!

So, how about you? Do you pre-plan your form and genre, or do you just let it flow right from the start and see where it takes you?

IWSG

A secret writer trying to open up – an IWSG post #IWSG

This post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG), a wonderful blog hop for writers of all kinds; those new to writing, those who are old hands at it, those who do it full time and those who just write when they can. For more details go to the main sign-up page, and make sure to drop by a few blogs while you’re there.

The co-hosts for the June edition of the IWSG are Pat Garcia, J.Q. Rose and Natalie Aguirre. Make sure you head over to see these guys and share some IWSG love!

Each month the IWSG posts a question that can be used in the next blog post, as a guide for sharing thoughts and advice to fellow writers. This month the question is:

Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?

I’m not sure about my writerly secrets, but one thing that’s for sure is that I’ve kept my identity as a writer a secret from most people for a very long time. My reasons for this vary:

  1. I’ve never thought my writing good enough for me to earn the title of ‘writer’.
  2. I’ve not had the confidence to show my writing to more than a handful of people.
  3. My impostor syndrome prevents me from moving forward with my writing in any meaningful way for fear of being found out as a fraud.
  4. I worry that people will mock me and wonder how I could possibly think I’d be any good as a writer.
  5. I’m heading towards 40 and am now paranoid that I’ve left it too late to make any kind of success out of my writing.

I know I’m not alone in thinking these things about my writer self, which is one of the things I love about this online writer community. It’s a boost to be among like-minded people that I can bounce ideas off and spill all my worries to. Thank you for that, by the way.

And now that I’ve actually written these so-called ‘reasons’ down and removed them from my head space, I feel like I’m better able to tackle my insecurities and just get on with my writing.

After all, the bottom line is that I write for me; it’s something I enjoy and it gives me a sense of purpose and achievement. I’m sure that I will share my stories with more people at some point; in some ways it’s easier to send them out to people I don’t know (competitions, publications, etc.) than to have them read by people I do know.

A good first step for me towards this goal is sharing my words with you lovely folk, so thank you for reading my ramble.

How about you, do you have any writing secrets?

IWSG

Getting back on the writing horse – an IWSG post #IWSG

This post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG), an awesome blog hop frequented by writers of all kinds; those new to writing, those who are more seasoned, those who do it full time and those who dip in and out. For more details go to the main sign-up page, and why not drop by a few blogs while you’re there. Make sure you’ve got plenty of time though, you could be there longer than you thought …

The awesome co-hosts for the May 6 posting of the IWSG are Feather Stone, Beverly Stowe McClure, Mary Aalgaard, Kim Lajevardi, and Chemist Ken. Make sure you head over to see these guys and share some IWSG love!

Each month the IWSG posts a question that can be used in the next blog post, as a guide for sharing thoughts and advice to fellow writers. This month the question on everyone’s lips blogs is:

Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the ZONE? Care to share?

So, it’s fair to say that I’ve been out of the writing zone for a very long time (my apologies if this isn’t news to some). The usual life milestones have wedged themselves firmly in the way, as well as work changes/challenges and other factors beyond my control.

But one good thing (and I like to dwell on the positives if I can) that has come out of this lock down situation is that I have a lot more time on my hands. Yes, things are equally, if not more, stressful at home with two children requiring homeschooling and working from home myself as well, but once the cherubs are in bed, I suddenly have more time for myself. I’m not having to head out for my mid-week darts match or run the children around to all their after-school stuff. And as for the weekends, all I really have on the to-do list is the weekly shop and a run around the block.

The first two or three weeks were tough as we adjusted to a new normal, but now things have settled a bit I want to use my time more productively, and that means getting back to writing. I’m trying to get myself back into a routine and make writing a habit again, something I plan into my day without having to think about it. I’ve been trying to free write for 15 minutes every day and so far I’m managing to do this three times a week. I’m hoping this will start stretching my writing muscles again so I can get back to writing like I used to.

How about you? Do you have any rituals you’d like to share? Any tips for me to help get back on that writing horse? I look forward to picking up some pointers.

IWSG

Reminiscing and reaching out – an IWSG blog post #IWSG

This post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, an awesome blog hop frequented by writers of all kinds; those new to writing, those who are more seasoned, those who do it full time and those who dip in and out. For more details go to the main sign-up page, and why not drop by a few blogs while you’re there. Make sure you’ve got plenty of time though, you could be there longer than you thought …

The question posed for this month’s post is:

Has a single photo or work of art ever inspired a story? What was it and did you finish it?

A few years ago I used to take part in a blog hop called the ‘Writer Wednesday Blog Hop’. Each week one of the co-hosts would post a picture and a selection of random words and the aim was to write some flash fiction up to 500 words and post the following week.

I used to really enjoy this challenge, I found the picture and the choice of words would really focus my mind and get me concentrating on my writing.

I’ve just done a little Google search (as you do) and can’t seem to find anything more recent than 2015 for this blog hop, which is a real shame because it was a lot of fun, but I realise it was a long time ago and those bloggers have probably/possibly moved onto other writing adventures now.

Does anyone else remember this blog hop? Do these logos ring any bells?

    wwbh-badge-2

If anyone remembers this blog hop I’d love to hear whether you took part or just enjoyed reading the stories, and if you were one of the co-hosts then do get in touch. It was a lovely bunch of ladies that used to keep this going and it would be great to hear from you again. In fact, I’m pretty sure that Nicole Pyles over at The World of My Imagination is on the IWSG sign-up list … 

IWSG

A new year, a new … (insert preference here) – an IWSG blog post #IWSG

This post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, an awesome blog hop frequented by writers of all kinds; those new to writing, those who are more seasoned, those who do it full time and those who dip in and out. For more details go to the main sign-up page, and why not drop by a few blogs while you’re there. Make sure you’ve got plenty of time though, you could be there longer than you thought …

The question posed for this month’s post is:

What started you on your writing journey?

The answer to this is something that I immediately thought was easy to come by, but the more I think about it the more elusive it is.

When I was at primary school, probably aged about 9/10 years old, we were tasked with writing an autobiography of sorts, in which I wrote that I wanted to be an author when I grew up. However, my studies veered away from English towards the sciences, mainly because I thought it would be easier to get a job in that area.

Throughout my teens and early adulthood I didn’t write anything, but my interest was sparked again when I returned to work after having my first daughter. My job changed slightly and I was assigned to work with someone different in a new department. We started talking about non-work related things (as you do) and it turned out that he also had an interest in writing and stories. We would bounce ideas off each other and even made a start on an outline for a joint venture, although it never really materialised into much.

It was definitely thanks to him that I started to put pen to paper, or rather hands to keyboard, and write stories of varying lengths. Now I’m sat here thinking about it, I realise this was actually ten years ago. Where has the time gone?!

Over that time my portfolio has grown very slowly and I’ve got more unfinished drafts than finished ones. Having my second daughter has definitely slowed things down, practically to a halt, but I try and free write for at least 15 minutes each day.

As we start a fresh new year, I’m filled with optimism and enthusiasm to kick-start my writing once again, and where better to start than with an IWSG blog post to ground myself and get my head in the right (write?) space? I’m reluctant to come up with specific New Year’s resolutions, but I would like to up my writing output over the next twelve months and maybe send out my stories to a place or two. Here’s hoping that by the end of the year the number of finished stories will outweigh the number of unfinished ones.

How did you get into writing?

What was your inspiration?

Have you set any goals for 2020?