Camp Nano – Day 10 – Slowing down…

CampNanoDay 10 at Camp Nano…

and I have had my slowest day…only 713 words written and mostly gibberish…

I blame it on the fact that today I woke up at 2.30am (GMT) and I am now fighting sleep at 9.40pm (GMT +1), having taken a Eurostar to Paris first thing, then a metro, then a RER train and finally a 4 1/2 car ride to get to my hometown for the start of my summer holiday.

I am knackered and my brain is just going “yadda yadda yadda…punch…yadda…yadda…faint left…” Yes, I am writing a fight scene and I think it just got a little messy…*sigh* that will require some serious editing *sigh*…sleep now… there is always tomorrow.

Night, night world!

ps: Signature2Oh I have discovered a new series of books. It’s meant to be for 10-12 years old kids but so was Harry Potter and I loved those…It’s called the Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy and it’s wickedly funny!

 

 

 

 

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I is for Improvement!

Yes people! Yesterday I read my second (and last) contribution to the Advance Writing Class.

I had been agonising about it all weekend and at the last moment (well lunchtime) I decided to write something new…again. Still part of the same story but a scene much further in. For this particular scene, I originally wanted to do a fight scene but I ended up with a scary locked room scene instead.

The feedback was really great. The last time, there were issues with my tone and voice for my main gal, Cassie and some issues with too much commentary lines. This time, I got the tone right and the tension was working. I still had some issues with too many commentary lines which I had to ask specifics on as I explained that I had tried hard to cut them down but maybe I didn’t really understand what they were… It appears that there are different types and I had taken care of some, but not all.

By commentary lines, Howard – how fearless tutor – meant the lines I had added which explained what a statement meant. For example:

They had taken her shoes, she realised. Why would they do that? And who the hell were they, anyway?

The part highlighted is considered a commentary line. I should cut it out and let the reader make those comments to themselves.

Another one is:

She was not alone in room. That much she could tell. There was another person breathing, however faintly. It was too dark still for her to see where she was but she was sure it wasn’t a four star hotel.

Again, the highlighted parts are considered commentary and diffuse the tension that I am trying to create.

Otherwise, it appears that I have a natural flow for tension, a few of my fellow students said they were skipping ahead of me to know what was going to happen next.

I am a huge thriller/suspense fan but I never thought I was capable to write some. Now I’d like to be able to merge suspense and fantasy together…which is what I am trying to do with the current story.

tbsBeFunky.hammettHoward recommended that I ready some 1930s/1940s American Noir writers as they do hard boiled well and apparently my style is closer to that as I don’t do flowery description. Sharp, tense action is where my strength seem to be. He recommended Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Jim Thompson, Walter Mosley… As before, I realised that my reading education, especially with classical American writers is quite abysmal. Although I know their favourite detectives: Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe (through TV series mostly). And as I am an obsessive type, first thing I did this morning was check them out on Amazon Kindle – which didn’t have cheap versions. So my next best website for books, especially second hand, is AbeBooks where I found really cheap second copies of The Big Sleep (Chandler), The Devil in a Blue Dress (Mosley), Hammett’s 4 first novels pack and the 3 first novels of Sue Grafton (who is a modern, female version of those dudes)…all for less than £10! Result!

I have read Sue Grafton before and I have very much enjoyed it but I had a shocking memory so I can’t remember which one I have read before. I do remember that I had borrowed the books from the library, so it will be good to have them to study.Sue_Grafton_ABC_Collection_A_for_Alibi_B_for_Burglar_C_for_Corpse_Kinsey_Millhone_abridged

Next week is our last class. I can’t believe it has been 6 weeks already! I am sure I will do that class again (you can do it as often as you like – of course) but probably not next semester. I need to do more coherent writing first so I can get more out of it. I still feel a little shaky about it and messy in my planning.

Thanks for reading,

Signature2

Advanced Creative Writing Course

Although I have been a bit quiet lately in there, this doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. I haven’t been writing as much as I would have liked, but I have been writing…although as usual, I am stuck at Chapter 3.

Yesterday I started the next level of my writing course, the Advanced one. Not that I think that I have the advanced skills already but the format is slightly different. It’s more about getting actual feedback for your writing and less about been “lectured” at, although there will be a teaching element to it.

Everyone at the course will have a chance to be “workshopped” twice. This means that twice, you have to come to class with at least 2,000 words (or about 12 mins reading time) of something you have written has part of your project. Ideally, something that isn’t working so you get can feedback from the tutors and peers that will actually be useful.

I am off next week so I won’t get to see how it works and then I am next up…I am a little nervous about this. Not that I fear I won’t have time to write anything, I already have enough material for my current project but mostly because everybody else in the class seems to be working on “serious” novels and I am going for pop/trash novel style. How will I be able to talk about freaking werewolves and vampires after others will have told semi-historical biography about their ancestors! Gulp! I feel a little silly already.

My project, if I dare sharing it, is an urban fantasy story. I can’t really call it a novel yet as I am not sure if I have enough material to write a full fledge novel. Maybe a short story or a novella? It will have romance (of course)…I like a good dose of sexual tension, although unlike some of the writers I see around the Kindle “playlist”, I am not automatically keen on raunchy sex scenes. No I am not a prude, I just prefer a kick ass fight scene. It will have action (see previous comment), it will have werewolves and some other supernatural races and it will be based in London. Write what you know, right? I would find it quite difficult at this stage to base my story somewhere I don’t know well (or at all). I could invent a new town I suppose but I have enough obstacles as we speak.

The plan is to write it using both my male and female lead POV….that’s the plan anyway.

I still need to work at my structure as I am not entirely sure what I want to happen, the how or the when…Yeah, tall order. I do have some nice set up scenes though…well, at least I think so…for now.

On another note…I have started to read Stephen King’s “On Writing”…it’s a mishmash of writing tips and autobiography…I am actually enjoying it more than I thought I would.

 

1.3 Beginnings: Ways to Begin a Story – Part Deux

Last week has been a bit mental and I didn’t get a chance to post a single exercise. So much for a daily exercise. I might have rename this, Weekly Exercise, or Whenever-You-Get-A-Chance Exercise…

 

Based on the writing exercises of What if? by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter(NB: I choose not to follow all the exercises or to share only those that I found interesting).

 

Exercise 3 – Part 2Experiment with different types of openings (with a generalisation, with a description of a person, with a narrative summary, with dialogue, with several characters but no dialogue, with a setting and only one character, with a reminiscent narrator, with a child narrator, by establishing point of view) for the story you are working on. (Go here for Part 1).

With a generalisation
I remember hearing someone say that you didn’t always what you deserve in, but what you needed. I wondered at this exact moment in which category finding a dying man at the moment of the stairs, fitted.

With dialogue
‘So how goes it?’ said Chiara over the phone.

‘Why are you calling? Aren’t you supposed to be on a hot date with what’s-his-face?’ I replied, sticking my mobile in the crook of my neck as I was touching up my make up.

‘Bah. He is absolutely yummy to look at but not much between the ears, if you know what I mean’ she sighed. ‘He is gone to the little boys room to I thought I’d check on you. Do tell now’.

‘You were right’ I scoffed. ‘They are dull as rain. All they are interested in is who will  make the cover of HEAT magazine, like any of them would. I have no idea who half of them are and they pretend they know who I am.

Chiara chuckled. ‘Told you so’.

I was about to ask her about our next dinner date when I heard a crash outside the ladies room.

With a setting and only one character
I was hiding in the ladies room, which was surprisingly empty, when I heard a cry and crash which seem to be coming from the lobby. 

With several characters but no dialogue
After dinner, the lights been dimmed and a DJ had started spinning some Top40 tune I didn’t recognise. I thought it probably was the right time for me to leave as I wasn’t much of a dancer and I could see that my dinner neighbour, a guy with wispy blond hair and the worst case of halitosis I had encountered, was about to ask me to dance. Around me, women with outfits that should never have seen the light of day, let alone be worn in public, were stumbling towards the dance floor, giggling, trying to pretend it was all part of their moves. I discreetly looked at my watch. Nearly midnight…I really should go.

 

And here the way I actually chose to start it (which would fall under “with a generalisation” and “by establishing POV” I think):

Sometimes you really have to be careful what you wished for. I had envied my best friend Chiara’s lifestyle forever and tonight she had engineered it so that I would get to be her for the night. She had told me countless times that being the PR manager for a cable TV channel wasn’t all that glamorous but I hadn’t believed her. I envied everything about Chiara. From her fashion sense to her career via her incredibly good looks.

 

Next: We move from Beginnings and onto “Notebooks, Journals and Memories! – Use yourself and your experiences as a source of inspiration.

 

 

1.3 Beginnings: Ways to Begin a Story

Based on the writing exercises of What if? by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. (NB: I choose not to follow all the exercises or to share only those that I found interesting).

Exercise 3 – Part 1: Experiment with different types of openings (with a generalisation, with a description of a person, with a narrative summary, with dialogue, with several characters but no dialogue, with a setting and only one character, with a reminiscent narrator, with a child narrator, by establishing point of view) for different stories until you feel comfortable with technique of each. – This is a fairly big exercise so I will only pick a three or four of the opening types for this one (the book gives example for each).

With a generalisation
Rosewood was one of those towns which was great if you were retired or raising a family with small children. It was quaint, quiet and safe. If you belonged to the sixteen-twenty four demographics however, Rosewood was the sort of town you couldn’t wait to leave behind, dull, predictable, boring. That is to say, until Elle Adams moved in.

With dialogue
‘We shouldn’t be here’ Lola whispered, looking terrified.
‘Oh come on, it will be fun!’  replied her boyfriend Mark, with a lot more enthusiasm than he actually felt.
‘Sure, when has that ever happened? A group of teens sneak in an abandoned house at night…that’s a recipe for the next Romero movie, not a fun night!’ said  Zoe Daniels who had tagged along on Lola’s insistence. Zoe was not as easily frightened as Lola but she wasn’t keen on the “fun” trip Mark had planned for the night. Mark was an idiot.

With a setting and only one character
The changing room smelled of sweat and mould. The paint, which might have been white once, was peeling off at random places, giving the room an air of neglect and abandon. There were rows of metal lockers, half of them with broken doors hanging off and most of them dented in a way that suggested they had been punched, often. Sitting on the wooden bench, earphones in, Matt wasn’t paying much attention to the decor. His hands were already wrapped with bright red wraps, his wife, Stella, had picked them. In less than fifteen minutes, he would be walking the long, dark corridor, in his red silk robe, black and red gloves on, ready to defend his title. But for now, he was getting himself ready in his head.

With a child narrator
My dad was furious with me. It was the first time he had taken us on holidays since the divorce and I had gone and ruined it already by closing the car door on my little sister’s fingers. Dad had no clue what to do with the sobbing and wailing mess that she had become. I felt really bad looking at her little red fingers and watery eyes. He was yelling at me for being so “useless” and the more he yelled, the harder Nina cried. I just stood there, head bowed down, making faces at her until she started to giggle again.

Coming up next
Exercise 3 – Part 2
: Do the same but for the story you are working on. Same opening, different styles.
Sorry I just didn’t have the time this week to do it all.

 

 

Daily Writing Exercises – 1.2 Beginnings: Pairing Sentences

Day 2 of my following the writing exercises of What if? by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter.

Today’s exercise is about pairing ideas for a first sentence.

Exercise 2: Write a first sentence of story about:

A- birth and one about death.
B- falling in love and one about filing for divorce
C- about spring and one about summer.

My contribution (comments, feedback, +1 welcomed!) – feel free to add your own contribution either in comment or as a ping back.

A)
1. If Amelia listened to her mother, the day she had come into this world hadn’t been a joyous one for either of them.
2. As he slowly slipped away, his face relaxed as if finally, after a lifetime of pain and hardship, he was at peace with the world, happy at last ; with one last sigh he was gone.

B)
1. It hit him like a freight train at full speed, he was falling for her, all of her, the good, the bad and the downright ugly.
2. Anna signed her name at the bottom of the page, her handwriting as elegant as ever ; she thought she should have felt something, relief, happiness, closure…instead she felt nothing, it was done, they were done.

C)
1. Spring had always been Jake’s favourite season, not too warm, not too cold, nature waking up from its long slumber, bursting to life like a newborn taking its first cry.
2. The heat was always what got him in summer, making him uncomfortable and self-conscious ; did his armpits smell?

 

Feel free to comment, feedback or post your own contribution in the comment section or as a pingback.

 

 

The One about Writing Exercises – 1. Beginnings

As I mentioned before, I am a master procrastinator. I will find anything to do except what I need to be doing. Even if it is something I actually enjoy doing, like writing.

Writing is never really the issue. Writing a coherent and cohesive story is. I start. Then I start again, and again. My Google Drive is full of beginnings, character profiles and beat sheets (courtesy of screenwriter guru Blake Snyder).

I have now completed 2 writing workshops (Beginners and Intermediate) and I am waiting to start the Advanced one.

I have bought numerous books on creative writing, mostly about general fiction writing and right now, this is what I am using to procrastinate, skill practise.

Saying that, I have decided to dedicate regular posts to the exercises suggested by the book: What If? by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. I bought it second hand from Amazon.

Maybe this will force me to write more and maybe it will help me add to my story* bit by bit.

The book is a bit dated (1990) and maybe a little snobbish when it comes to more fun genres like sci-fi and fantasy but the exercises are sound (I think).

So like all good stories, this book start at the beginning…

Exercise 1: Write 5 of your own opening lines for 5 different stories…the advice from the book is to try to start in media res (in the middle of things) – I think they quite like big words in there and the use of Latin. They also recommend to do one opening line every day for the rest of your life, to keep perfecting it. We’ll see.

So here is my contribution…

1. ‘Absolutely not!’ I said, looking at my best friend Chiara, straight into her baby blue eyes ; she was the only person in the world I could stand up to and know she will stay my friend.

2. They came at night, whilst everyone was sound asleep, feeling safe and warm in their beds, with weapons never seen before, bringing mayhem, death and destruction so no one would ever feel safe again at night.

3. The sound of the gunshots resonated so loudly in the arena that it made her ears ring, her hand jerked back from the recoil and the smell of gunpowder made her nose itch; and just like that, she became a murderer.

4. It was still dark and quiet when I left the house, leaving my teenage son sound asleep.

5. My name is Stryder – no first name, thank you very much – and I am a demon hunter.

 

The first two came quite easily although, I had originally written them as a couple of shorter sentences (and I think it probably works better in short sentence) but the exercise was about one sentence, not a paragraph.

Feel free to contribute your own in the comment section.

Thanks,

Signature2

 

 

 

 

 

 

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* I have yet again changed the premise of my story. Having chosen one for my last class and subsequently decided that I didn’t know where I was going with it. I chose another, in another genre, which I have also abandoned and I am not back to my first genre but with a different story…yeah, I know *sigh*.