I have just come back from spending two lovely months in the USA. Since coming back my goals have been to find employment, get fitter and as ever to continue developing my writing.
I saw a great quote this weekend which said, “Good things come to those who work their asses up and never give up.”
Now, you might think that that is very obvious but I am the first to admit that even though I have goals sometimes I can slightly deviate from the plan of achieving them as quickly as I could. So since I’ve been back I am all about determination and working hard. I have a MAJOR interview coming up that I want more than anything. It will be the challenge and adventure that I need. And if I do get it then I really want to start blogging about the experience to help others who might think that it is their kind of thing too.
On the employment side, I have applied to mainly marketing and copywriting positions. I’ve also looked into temping as my BIG interview means that I may not be in the UK for very much longer… Job hunting is HARD and coming back from my trip I am beginning to remember just how difficult it is. It is very much a challenge of perseverance and determination. Speaking to a friend this week that is off to Honduras to get a Divemaster Certificate next month, I have come to remember the importance of creating back up plans (yes plural). So far I have just two but I want to go a little further than that to explore my options. Once everything is a little more set in stone I then want to create a long term plan for myself.
For some time I have always said that I will have my first book in stores by the time that I was twenty-five, however having just turned twenty-three the reality of that goal is really starting to set in. Yes I do have some completed works but none which are publication ready. So this week I want to create a realistic schedule that will help me achieve that. I also had a little idea that I really want to explore. My sister is a photography student and one thing that I was really drawn too in the way that art students study is their sketch book. When I write, I tend to write directly onto the computer. There are times that I write in a notebook but it is few and far between. What I want to create now is a sketchbook of words. I’ve been looking at journals and how people keep theirs but I really want mine to be visual as well as written. Also I would like to analyse different writers the same way my sister analyses different artists. I don’t know, this is just a thought and maybe it might be better written online, at least that way I could share it on my blog as well.
On the fitness side I have started Insanity by Shaun T and have just got Hip Hop Abs. I’m not a gym person so I’m always looking for fun (and most importantly cheap) ways that I can get fit, usually at home. Insanity is pretty tough but Shaun T is a fantastic coach and you feel really motivated to ‘dig deeper’ and push past your limits. Today, I have made a pact with myself to limit/cut down completely my pasta intake as I really want to improve my body fat percentage. I’ve had my final feast and now the hard works really begins because, for me at least, it’s harder to give up pasta than it is to complete a Shaun T interval work out!!
I started with even better intentions that my first blog however this one still ended up stagnant. I read somewhere that if you are starting a blog you should write at least ten posts in advance. This is probably the best advice that I have heard and though it is too late for me I recommend it for others.
What is interesting is that my online writing portfolio has also remained stagnant. The work is still out there, readers are still out there but there has been little interest. However, there have been plenty of comments on my page from others asking me to read their work. This is one of the reasons why I dislike booksie, I find that most who use it are very concerned about spamming peoples walls to ask them to read their work but won’t take the time to read others. I’m not even sure if finding another writing portfolio is something that I want to pursue now. If you host your own portfolio on a website, let me know I’d love to see it. As usual you can contact me on twitter @jadedeterville.
Things have been quiet on the blog front because I decided to leave my PR job in order to fulfil something that I knew I would regret if I didn’t just up and do it. I’ve been over in the States for a couple of months and it’s given me the opportunity to see some amazing sites and shows, write more fiction and spend time with my amazing guy and his family. My trip has had its ups and downs but ultimately I am so glad that I did it. I’ve also had some more fantastic news that could potentially be life changing, I don’t want to talk about it now and jinx it but if it comes to be I’ll definitely write about it.
This blog is getting back on track so feel free to stop by and comment.
As a writer I write so that I my work can be read.
This week I’ve been focussing on setting up an online portfolio (which you can take a look at here) so that readers can take a look at my work and give me feedback, whether that feedback is positive or negative, good criticism is beneficial for making work better. That doesn’t mean that you rush out to change everything that someone has said needs work. Sometimes you need to take criticism with a pinch of salt and in other cases with some cayenne pepper, a sprinkle of Cajun and some All Spice because at the end of the day the story & characters must always stay true to you.
I’ve started to keep my work online as way of getting feedback and connecting with other writers. Since finishing my creative writing classes I don’t have the same network & writing support that I used to so an online network is useful. Also I’m about to stay in VA for a couple of months so it seemed pointless to start going to a writers group only to have to stop.
This is my third attempt at having an online writing portfolio, the one before this I used a pseudonym and as mentioned in my first post that is something that I want to stay away from. My first one I took down mainly because I couldn’t handle the criticism and also because I was worried about generally keeping my work online. Booksie is the website I am using at the moment and so far so good, I can share the link with people who don’t have Booksie accounts and those that do can comment and like my work.
Here are a few things that I have learned since putting work online:
- Nothing that we write will ever be perfect to everyone
- Every story/novel/poem should be treated like a child – that is to say I should not mollycoddle it and think that it is God’s gift to modern literature or get too upset when a fellow writer has advice for improvement
- Be ready to read other people’s work – giving good criticism is a great way to receive good criticism
- Just because I love my story doesn’t mean that everyone else will – not every loves the genre or styles that I write and that is OK
- Sometimes characters are weak, plots are flawed and I’m so in love with the idea of my story that I miss what it really is
- I am terrible with grammar, probably because I paid more attention to the stories in my English Literature classes than the grammar rules in my English Language classes and honestly it is a blessing when somebody points out when I’ve missed something because even after reading & owning a copy of The Elements of Style by Strunk and White I probably still wouldn’t spot a grammar mistake on my own
- Readers aren’t that mean – and those that are can have their comments deleted and blocked if it bothers you that much
- Being honest with your work and accepting criticism is a brilliant way to improve it
- It’s alright to be nervous every time you see that you have a new comment through – I always am
- Some people’s criticism sucks – saying something is good, or needs work is an indication but not much for good criticism. In my classes we had to point out one good point and one bad point and it worked. We got detailed specific criticism
- Some people really are quite willing to read your work and give their opinion - since having my work online I’ve interacting with some great people, some writer’s but others not
In part two I’ll look at some other writing portfolio websites that writers use, I’ll take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each and hey, I might even switch my own writing portfolio to another platform.
Do you put your work online? Perhaps you just post it on your actual blog; I have seen a few people do that. Let me know! I’m very interested to see what others are doing. As usual you can contact me on twitter @jadedeterville
I always enjoy writing exercises whether it’s to free up writing block or just for the fun of it, they can be fantastic for expanding creativity and developing writing in general. My favourite part is discovering a new character, or a new storyline that can inject a new life into something I’m working on or start something completely different entirely.
I use classify my exercises in two different ways (I’m sure other people have ways of doing this but this is just mine). Free Exercises meaning that I usual use them to start a new story and Development meaning that I usual use it to develop a pre-existing story or character.
- A firm favourite that a very eccentric, red wine loving lecturer taught me. I write 20 first sentences. Take 10 and expand them into paragraphs. Take 2 and write a full page from them. (I got the idea for my first published short story like this! I just couldn’t stop writing the story. See it online here.)
- Timed Writing – I set myself a certain amount of time, ten minutes perhaps. Select a theme, such as hurt, fantasy, or the start of a sentence perhaps like, I remember when… just something to get me to begin writing. Then I set my timer and begin writing without stopping. I don’t stop to correct my grammar or to think too much about what I’m really writing; I just let my subconscious take over.
- Use a picture – see that old copy of Glamour/GQ/Vogue/Nationatal Geographic you have sitting over there. Pick it up and open it up to a page that strikes you. Now begin to form a story behing the man/child/woman/stunning landscape that you are looking at and write. (N.B. Alternatively do this without a picture by people watching and thinking about what that the story behind the person in the grocery store could be – just don’t stare for too long, it’s unnerves people.)
- If I already have a character, I like to get to know them better sometimes by writing them into a random scene. Maybe my doctor finds himself in a snow storm…he might be calm performing heart surgery but how does he react knowing that the storm isn’t going away and his food is running out?
- Interviewing characters can be fun. I was writing a vampire story and it was interesting to see how each vampire character reacted to all sorts of questions. It gave me a good insight into who they really were.
- My lecturer once told us to take one of the characters from the novel/short story we were writing and rewind their life by 24 hours – what are they doing? Write about it. I took one of my characters, who is cold & brutal and rewound his life by fifteen years to discover the reason why he was the way he is – I actually got a little stand alone novella out of it which I was proud of
These are just a few of my favourites that work for me; I’d love to know how they work for you and what exercises you do. Feel free to comment or get at me on twitter @jadedeterville
Also consider picking up a book called The Write Brain by Bonnie Neubauer, it’s a fantastic book of 366 writing exercises to liberate your writing and chase away the dreaded writer’s block plus it is colourful and has pictures!
When I finished joint degree in Business Management and Creative Writing in 2010 I wrote a novel and then took a little break from writing. For two reasons, one was that I was scared that what I was writing wasn’t good enough (I guess because I didn’t have the support of my lecturers and peers) and two because I wanted to break away from all of the structure. In university we’d have a module, for example Writing and the World, we’d be given travel books to read and then be expected to use what we’ve learned and discussed to write our own piece. In the real world writing (for me at least) isn’t like that.
Writing my first novel taught me that it is a lot harder than what I thought it would be. When you read a good book all of that characterisation, plot, setting just flows but trying to construct it yourself is tricky. What inspires me is reading the stories of bestselling authors like Becca Fitzpatrick who started to write Hush, Hush after taking a writing class, wrote the story then scraped half of the book and then rewrote it. It takes planning, preparation and determination to construct a good novel and we shouldn’t be afraid to get rid of the perfect scene(s) we’ve just written if in the long run it just doesn’t go.
Last November I decided to take on the challenge of NaNoWriMo and although I didn’t complete it, the pressure of having to write 50,000 words by the end of the month made me a million times more focused. There were days when I’d write 4000 words and reading them back they actually aren’t bad. However I found that after NaNoWriMo I’d kind of had enough of writing, it wasn’t fun anymore it was a laborious chore and for someone who dreams of having a novel in Waterstones that is not a good thing.
I think it’s important to find a balance between channelling your muse and working it like a slave-driver.
I am still writing the novel I began in NaNoWriMo but I’m breaking it down into bite size chunks of 500 words plus a day. This way I’m still excited about the characters, the storyline and just what is going to happen to next. I try to leave what I’m writing at an exciting bit so that the next day I look forward to getting back into that scene. I also keep a writing journal, this is something that works for me, I write down the date, how many words I’ve written and a little about how my writing is going. I’m also one of those people that like to plan what I’m going to write (to a degree…it’s always good to leave a little surprise).
I’m looking forward to finishing this novel, excited to work on short stories again and get started on a fresh project.
This is my second attempt at blogging.
I got my feet wet using blogger and writing under a persona. Blogger is super easy to use; I got a few followers and learnt a few lessons. For one, making time for blogging alongside working on my fiction, having a full time job in PR and trying to keep up with my new fitness regime was hard. So hard in fact, that the last blog perished in a black hole of all of the other half started blogs on the interweb. Also the whole writing under a pen name wasn’t something that I wanted to do anymore. At first I was a little scared of putting my opinions out there with my own name so I hid knowing that I could say what I wanted without fear. Oscar Wilde says:
“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
But I say if your man enough to have an opinion you should be man enough to put your name behind it.
So blog two is different, for one I’ve given up my PR job (I’ll explain why in another post) and secondly I’ve realised where I want to be as a writer and having (and regularly updating my own blog as me) is just one thing that my envisioned writer self does.
Get at me on twitter @jadedeterville
(My tweets are hidden at the moment but feel free to add me; they won’t be for much longer)