Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Faber Writing Academy: Plot

I meant to post this months ago, but it somehow got stuck in my drafts!

This summer, I took part in Faber Academy's Plot writing course, which is one of the mini, two month long online courses Faber offers. At £120 per course, Faber's mini courses are considerably cheaper than the longer, more intensive courses offered by Faber, Curtis Brown Creative and The Writer's Academy.

I decided to sign up for this course after reading a few articles on why people often forget to treat writing as a hobby, so feel guilty spending money on it. If I was into cycling, I wouldn't think twice about spending birthday money on a bike, or new kit. If I was a musician, I'd happily pay for instruments, lessons and sheet music. But for some reason I've always been reluctant to spend money on my writing. I'm trying to rectify this (and change my entire mindset on my approach to my writing) by investing in a few books on writing, a Mslexia subscription and this Faber course. 

I really enjoyed this course and it was a lot of fun to take part in, but you do get what you pay for. Feedback is provided by other members of the course (you can pay extra for tutor feedback) and you're mostly left to your own devices. Some of the participants didn't feedback on anyone else's work, which was a shame as I found leaving feedback was a really useful process and I loved seeing everyone's unique and talented responses to the tasks set. 

I thought the resources were brilliant and I picked up some really useful tips and tricks, which I'm using on my current WIP. I think taking the course has helped with my writing process and also stopped me panicking about some of the aspects of my writing I worried about previously. I've also been able to join an alumni forum to keep in contact with some of the people I met on the course. The daily email updates I get from the forum serve as a great motivator to keep writing.

Faber offers mini courses on character, research and setting for the same price. It's also worth pointing out that CBC now offer some great scholarships for people who would like to apply to one of their courses but can't afford them. You can find out more about them here

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Shift Zine

Argh! It's been so long since I posted anything. I don't know what happened - I have around ten posts saved in my draft which I haven't finished and scheduled for some crazy reason. Expect a deluge in the run-up to Christmas!

My most exciting writing news at the moment is that I had a short story published in the October issue of Shift Zine! You can read it here - it's a (very) short story about a vampire discussing his self-control issues (which he absolutely does not have). I had a lot of fun writing it and was so incredibly excited when I heard it was being published. I really hope you enjoy reading it. And after you do, make sure you check out the brilliant reviews and interviews, as well as two amazing short stories by Gemma Varnom and Brianna Henderson. 

Saturday, 9 September 2017

When Dimple Met Rishi

I can't remember the last time I read a novel in a day, but I couldn't put When Dimple Met Rishi down!

“Seriously? That's what you think I should be relegating my brain space to? Looking nice? Like, if I don't make the effort to look beautiful, my entire existence is nullified? Nothing else matters-not my intellect, not my personality or my accomplishments; my hopes and dreams mean nothing if I'm not wearing eyeliner?” 

Dimple has a plan - for college and coding domination - and an arranged marriage doesn't figure into it. So when she arrives at a summer coding program and Rishi strolls over, introducing himself as her husband, she takes the only reasonable course of action and throws her coffee over him. What follows is both adorable and hilarious. 

“She refused to be one of those girls who gave up on everything they'd been planning simply because a boy entered the picture.” 

I loved the characters and the romance in this story. It was so cute and happy that I defy anyone to read it without a smile on their face. This is absolutely one to read if you want to be put in a good mood.

“But that was Rishi... he was like a pop song you thought you couldn't stand, but found yourself humming in the shower anyway.” 

Saturday, 2 September 2017

On Writing: by Stephen King

I have been reading more non-fiction books this year and the highlight so far has definitely been On Writing, which I was bought for my birthday. It's a fascinating insight into how one of the greatest writers of our time works and I think it will appeal even to people who don't have an interest in writing fiction. 

The first half is a 'writing CV' which is a mini-memoir of the writing related moments in King's life. I actually ended up enjoying this more than the writing types as it was so interesting. However, the writing tips were also extremely useful and I made a lot of changes to my editing process as a result. In particular, the marked up 'edited chapter' King includes at the end of the book was such an invaluable thing to see. I cut a lot of words out of my WIP after reading it (including a lot - but not all - of the adverbs!)

One of the things I found most fascinating, however, was that King doesn't plan his novels. As someone who has recently completed a Faber course on plot in an attempt to get her head around planning, I found this both interesting and surprising. King likens his writing process to an archaeological excavation; carefully uncovering a story that's already there. 

While I don't think everything King suggests is right for me and my writing process, I've taken away a lot of helpful advice and I can't recommend this novel enough as a result.  

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Wing Jones

Beautiful. I've seen a lot of hype for this novel and all of it is justified. My only regret is that I read it on Kindle, so I couldn't get my copy signed at YALC. 

“Wing,” he breathes, like a wish, like a prayer, and it’s as if it is my heart’s name and not my own because my heart flutters in my chest, desperate to get out to fly to him.” 

Wing Jones (or The Heartbeats of Wing Jones, if you're in America) follows a young girl called Wing's attempts to cope with a difficult stage in her life by discovering a passion and talent for running. 

“Then he smiles at me and it’s like I’ve been living in darkness and now there is light.”

I adored the figurative language, which fitted in so well with Wing's personality and what she imagined. It flowed beautifully and made this novel so enjoyable to read. 

"But my happiness is a squishy kind of happiness, squeezing itself in where it can fit, pushing around all the sadness and the stress and the pressure, finding any empty spot, any crevice, and filling it."

The characters were also brilliant - I liked that none of them were perfect, as this lead to a realistic, believable story line. And speaking of believable, I've never read a novel which made me so thankful for the NHS. The medical bills and difficulties Wing's family face are incomprehensible for someone who has never had to pay for healthcare and reminded me how lucky we are to have the NHS in the UK. 

“Another wish, a secret one, flutters by, and it has Aaron’s name on it. I watch it for a moment, fluttering, floating, and then I grab it tight and crush it before anyone else can see it. I can feel the remnants of the mothy wish wings on my skin.” 

Webber captures the exhilaration and freedom of running so well and it (almost) made me want to put on my trainers. Until I remembered that I have a six months old and haven't had a decent night's sleep in over a year, so running is about as appealing as, well, anything that's not sleep, really... I think I'll stick to reading!

Saturday, 19 August 2017

The Scarecrow Queen

The fantastic conclusion to The Sin Eater series.

I know I've already said this in my reviews of the first two books, but I love the world building in Salisbury's stories. I only wish I'd been reading the paperback edition rather than my kindle, so that flicking back to the map wasn't such a hassle!

“And that, my girl, is the secret. Quake all you must on the inside. But on the outside you must be stone. And you never know; with enough practice it might become the truth.” 

The plot of Scarecrow Queen had a lot of twists and turns and the story was really fast paced, with characters being thwarted in every chapter - this story never went where I was expecting it to, even at the end, which was all kinds of perfect (and I won't say any more than that because of spoilers!)

“In every fairy tale there is a kernel of truth, and that is the truth of this one. For him, I am poison. I am his death. And I will deliver.” 

I recently got to hear Salisbury speak about Errin and Twylla on the Heroines panel at YALC and it was great to hear about the contrasts she wanted to draw between them, so that she created two very different heroines who would reflect and speak to different readers. I love both girls, but Twylla was my favourite - I love the changes she goes through and the way her confidence improves over the course of this book. She's come so far from the girl she was in the Sin Eater's Daughter.

“Scarecrow queen. Nothing but a dupe, alone in a field, hoping to keep the crows at bay.” 

I also enjoyed how horrible Aurek was - he's not horrible in a darkly seductive, I-like-him-even-though-I-shouldn't kind of way - he's a monster. I like reading about villains that I really, deeply dislike. 

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Why We Love: There is a Tribe of Kids

Whenever I spot a new picture book at the library that I've already heard about, I have to pick it up. This is exactly what happened with There is a Tribe of Kids, which won the 2017 Kate Greenway medal. 

It follows a young child's attempts to find a group where he fits in: from baby goats, to turtles, to - finally - a tribe of children.

There are some brilliant collective nouns in this story. The words are sparse, but cleverly used and we loved the illustrations. There's also lots to discuss as you read, in terms of loneliness and belonging. It's a really lovely book and one that I will be disappointed to return next week.