Posted in tips, update, writing

Coffee time

Hey guys, I figured it was well and truly time for a catch up, so grab a coffee with me.

So the last few months have been kind of hectic. I hit 90k words and finished the first draft of my current MS, which is super exciting. I also attended the Salisbury Writers’ Festival which I think Lauren Rose is doing a blog on, so goodie. Among all of that though, I realised how little I was involved in the community. Like, yeah, I read a bunch and review stuff and leave feel good comments on twitter and my bookstagram that I run with Lauren. It still doesn’t feel like I’m participating enough. I want to know people, to help people.

I’ve decided on two long term projects that I plan to get up and running because of this (well, three, actually!) You might have already noticed some ‘under construction’ tabs in my menu, too. While I’ll be submitting to more anthologies as well as writing in general more, I’m going to be opening myself up for some critiques after some fantastic feedback from current pieces I’m working on. So I’ll be sorting all of the details for that in the near future. I’ve also decided to do a mental health and writing podcast. MH is something that I am a strong advocate for, and I feel a lot of people use writing as a way to deal with stuff, which is great, I do too. I want to be able to engage and actually connect and let people know ‘hey, it’s OK to feel crappy’. Mental health issues aren’t a death sentence, but they do need some help navigating, and I feel like I have enough tools now to help a bit. So I’ve been looking into outlining some episodes and stuff- tell me if there’s anything you’d like to hear. Finally- I started a wattpad for the stories that I maybe don’t feel as confident about, or that weren’t shortlisted. I don’t want them just ~sitting~ there, so I hope someone enjoys them at least!

I think that’s everything I wanted to chat about/update you all on. It’s weird- my mental health is probably the best it’s been in many years, but I’m trying to be over eager about stuff again and I wear out a lot. I used to take on way, way too much and I burned out hard, and it’s weird to recognise those red flags and be able to halt. All you can do is try, and that’s what I’m going to do- try to the best of my abilities without making myself sick.

Happy writing,

Emma-Kate xoxo

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Posted in tips, update, writing

Star Wars: A love letter

Warning: this blog is different to normal and contains spoilers.

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Art by Deya Muniz, a hilarious genius

I was a little girl when the prequels came out. With older siblings that had been born in the seventies, Star Wars was a thing in our house. I had vague memories of it- of a giant Jar Jar Binks statue in the local KFC that scared me, of fighting over Darth Vader Pez dispensers with my older sister. I remember Star Wars, of dashing Han, of Luke and his strength, of the beautiful Princess. It wasn’t until I was an adult that Star Wars clicked with me.

I went to see The Force Awakens on a date, and after that showing, I was obsessed. It wasn’t because it was a new Star Wars, or that I was old enough to properly connect. No- it was because of Kylo Ren.

Now, a lot of you have probably heard people trash on him. I hear it a lot. “He’s such a cry baby”, “he’s more poorly written than Anakin!”, “all he does is whine”. When I look at Kylo, I see a character I relate to. Someone that struggled with rage, who has this idea of who and what they should be shoved onto them from a young age, who has to battle with what others want of him versus what he actually wants.

The Last Jedi was particularly powerful to me. After seeing how scared he was at the idea of killing his father, of the weight of becoming a Sith, a Darth. Then the fear in his eyes, the sheer loneliness, when he couldn’t pull the trigger to kill his mother. You could see the love in his eyes, in his heart. He’s portrayed as this angry, hateful person. You know what makes people angry and hateful? Scared, confused children that don’t have people around them that pay attention. Rey and Kylo are so alike in that regard- different families, similar results. I feel for him. I feel for his character, and my heart breaks for him.

I write about this today because I’ve been worried I’ve been overdoing my own characterization. People don’t want characters to be too nice, or too angsty, too this, too that. That’s not how characters or people work. They’re so much more organic than that, they ripple and flow and change and they feel and experience. Kylo has changed with those things. I have changed with those things. My characters will. So will yours.

Don’t be afraid of the expectations of others. Do what feels right to you.

Happy writing,

Emma-Kate xoxo

Posted in reading, review, tips, update

Why I struggle with popular books

Hear me out. This isn’t going to be a bashing or a witch hunt. This is going to be something I lament on because of my own issues and feelings. No fault on any books or what else.

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On instagram I posted a side by side of two books that I’ve read in the last year. They have similar plots (a retelling of Labyrinth and a retelling of Beauty and the Beast). They were both captivating and both well written. I found Wintersong on a whim, had never heard of it, while A Court of Thorns and Roses was recommended to me. Can you guess which one I struggled with?

Hype and the over exaggeration by others can really kill a book for me. I go in expecting a certain standard, a minimum. I don’t mean the genuine, balanced reviews that feature the good and the bad- I mean the fangirl ones. You guys know. I remember reading Twilight before the movie deal and then suddenly- bam. You couldn’t criticize it. I knew it was flawed when I read it. It was a fun indulgence though, a book I didn’t need to think too hard about, and it didn’t have a standard it needed to reach. The second fandom was attached to it- I was out. (Heck, it was even why I couldn’t reread Harry Potter for a few years).

I like to pick a book without any bias. I should be able to see the cover, read the blurb, and make a decision. With the ability to share opinions though, and the inability of some to make a reasonable, well rounded argument for a book other than “it’s the best and you’re stupid if you don’t like it” (not a quote by anyone that recommended this book to me, just a fond one from my Twilight days), makes reading hard. If I had picked up ACOTAR on a whim? I would have loved it. I mean, I like it, but the WHOLE time reading it I had the shadow of my friends and peers looming over me, telling me that oh no it’s good the starts just bad, or the second book is better, etc.

I don’t like this. I want to make my own informed opinion. I also feel like if someone loves something so much they’re willing to make excuses for it, then I can’t say I what I think for fear of offending and bristling them. GUYS. A book can be fun and not well written. A book can have beautiful prose but be boring as sin.

For instance, the first 30% of ACOTAR? I was already expecting a level of high quality, and those pages lacked it. It was slow, self serving (Feyre stop being so narcissistic, goddamn), boring. I couldn’t not shake all the comments I’d be given though. Wintersong was extremely similar but I didn’t struggle with this same issue because I had made the choice to read that book and I had no idea ‘it was going to get better’. It was a journey that I could make with no bias.

So how about instead of blindly defending the books we love, we realise each and every book has its flaws and weakness, and that others will have different opinions to us and we need to let them make them. Then our inner bitchy fangirl can come out and have heated discussions over a mocha. I can be just as catty about books I love!

Happy writing,

Emma-Kate xoxo

Posted in tips, writing

Pinteresting things- plotting and structure around images

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So some of you may be aware that Pinterest is a thing. More of you may be aware that authors love Pinterest. I wasn’t really aware of that until recently- I thought it was just something mums did, y’know?

I’ve recently turned to the dark side. Pinterest has been a go to of mine for story planning. I started rewriting a book recently. I mean, I trashed everything but one or two characters, the the feeling I wanted to convey with it. The plot changed, the genre- literally everything. When I first decided I had to scrape this decade old project that I loved so much but knew wasn’t the story it had to be, it hurt. I had no idea where to jump off. So, I turned to pinterest with a few things I did know- what my main characters looked like, and the vibes I wanted to encompass.

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Though these are only a few of the bunch of images I saved, they were a jumping off point. I found reference images I had considered, and built a story around the setting and the moral of the story I wanted to convey.

I still didn’t know WHAT I wanted to happen. I panicked. I had a vague idea now but no real sub plots. So, I did a google. I knew I wanted to write a south gothic/young adult book. That’s when I landed at this incredibly helpful site.

  • Beginning; use voice/mystery/location/atmosphere to drawn in reader
  • Inciting event: what sets the story in motion?
  • What are the goals, motivation, and conflict of the main character?
  • The guts of the story based on these: dialogue, narration, and the right details
  • The black moment: when everything falls apart for dear old protagonist and they’re rammed into a corner
  • Resolution: How do they/don’t they resolve the issue and achieve/not achieve their goals?

Following this super simple formula, based on the fleeting sentence I had for a plot, I put my thoughts into a paragraph for each of these. I expanded and added onto what I already knew and gave voice to the desires of my MC and thought about where their initial actions would lead them.

You know what I did after this? I took facets I built up in these paragraphs (i.e. the conflict) and found images by looking up what happened/how it felt and finding images in pinterest to add to my board. Some of them felt a little silly but I managed to build a clear reference to the setting of my story and the plot began unfurling like flowers on a tree from there!

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Since then I have been scrawling little sub plots and ideas that I want to explore! You know what they said; an image is worth a thousand words.

 

Happy writing,

Emma-Kate xoxo

Posted in tips, update

My adventures with Tumblr

For this week’s blog, I wanted to mix things up a bit. I decided to make a tumblr
(which I do plan to regularly maintain!) and write about the process and what happened.

So, first of all, my decision to make a tumblr was based on a few things; one- I felt kinda left out. People seem to really enjoy theirs and I wanted to be apart of that. Two- It had the pinterest vibe but with customization aspects that appealed to me. Three- I like reasons to procrastinate!

So, before making a tumblr, I reached out on my personal FB. I got a lot of messages about tumblr, but my friend actually posted some really good foundations for me on my status about it.

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So, I had no clue that people had multiple for aesthetic and themes and stuff, which should have seemed obvious now that I think about it, haha. So, I opened up tumblr, created an account, and dove right in, because doing is the best way to learn.

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So initially your tumblr is blank as heck. Nothing besides the url I picked, basically. I sort of just clicked around to work out what I was doing. I knew I wanted a fantasy/writing aesthetic vibe to it, so I went to edit theme first and began mangling my tumblr from there.

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Guys, there are a hecking lot of options and it can be OVERWHELMING. I think I spent maybe an hour going through themes, browsing and previewing, trying to find something that felt like me. I don’t know much about html but I figured my partner, who works in DevOps, could mess around with whatever I picked later, so I finally settled on a theme.

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I picked a really simple theme in the end, and it just felt RIGHT. The theme was called “Notes” and I did some simple editing from there. I changed the background colour to be my standard shade of pink, the one that has been used on all my social media and on my business cards, etc. I also went to google fonts to choose a font that I wanted for my tumblr. I went with Indie Flower- it’s cute and light and reminiscent of my own hand writing. A lot of the other stuff I did was pretty simple- I changed the colour of the tabs and added a blog name, description, and an avatar. Really simple stuff, honestly.

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After that, I returned to the dashboard and searched different terms that related to me and began scheduling some items to be reblogged that I felt suited the “vibe” of my blog! This bit was obviously the funnest. I set up some scheduled stuff so I could have regular updating content without having to spend all day on tumblr. I also made a first post to commemorate, and followed a few authors and friends that I knew already had blogs.

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I still don’t have much idea what I’m doing, but I’m excited to get to know tumblr and the community better. It’s been a fun experience thus far and I highly recommend making a blog or two to suit your aesthetic needs. It’s definitely a social media platform that I think I’ll be easily able to spend more time on, and easily customization for future changes. Do you have a tumblr, or follow one you like? Hit me up with a link so I can go have a look!

Happy writing,

Emma-Kate xoxo

Posted in tips, update

Making up for mediocrity

This is something that has played on my mind for a long time, and no doubt has played on the mind of many others. The idea of being mediocre, of just OK, is possibly the most terrifying thing to me and plays largely into the fear I had of not trying for a long time. I mean, if you’re terrible at something, you can try to get better, or just shrug it off and decide on a different path though. Being average though is a horrifying realisation; what if that mediocrity is the best you can do?

I don’t want to be an OK writer. I want to reach people. I don’t care about money or fame, but I do want people to read my work and go “holy shit, that made me cry” or “how DARE your writing hurt my heart like that”. I want to evoke emotions in people. Mediocre writing doesn’t do that. Mediocre writing doesn’t leave any sort of impression. People don’t care for it one way of the other; they shrug their shoulders, and move on with their lives when they’re done, your work a fleeting and distant memory. As much as I hate it, at least BAD writing gets noticed, too. You won’t believe how worked up at how sloppily written Fifty Shades is. It appeals to people that want something simplistic and (apparently?) arousing though. The idea of not even being able to achieve that haunts me constantly.

It’s OK to be just alright though. Truth is, if you want something bad enough and work hard enough, you are going to improve. Sometimes we need to lower our expectations for ourselves and cut ourselves some slack. We aren’t always going to hit a standard we set for ourselves. We definitely aren’t going to always meet the standards that others impose on us. Let yourself fail, or not do great. As long as you keep learning and trying, that is the thing that matters. It’ll lighten the burden on your heart, and make doing better in the future easier. I believe in every last one of you.

Happy writing,

Emma-Kate xoxo

Posted in Nanowrimo, tips, update, writing

I might as well be a trash can

…because all that comes out of me is garbage.

I’m sure we’ve all felt this way many, many a time. I’m sure we’ll all feel that way again.

What I want to address is that this feeling, as consuming and awful and as gross as it is; it’s one we all have. Literally everyone. To be honest, it’s probably good we’re feeling that way, even if it doesn’t feel good. It means we’re questioning ourselves, seeing that we can improve. Which is a little overwhelming.

This feeling can be a lot easier to manage if you break it down. For instance, a) is realising that hey, you’re not too happy with your work. Alright, that means b) is accepting that one, first drafts are just that- first drafts. They are gonna need work, love and effort- and several rewrites. C) would then be implementing that and taking it baby step by baby step.

Unfortunately, some 30k words into Nano, I began to panic a lot. I made some messes with my plot, I (GASP) diverged from my plan, and have left scattered sticky notes all over those notes and my PC, praying I would make sense of it when it came to it. I actually started writing this in the middle of this panic, because I just felt (well, feel, really) so unconfident. What if I wasted all of November writing these words, and they’re all garbage?

Well, I’m coming to terms with accepting something. A lot of those words will be absolute garbage. However, it’s a lot easier to edit or rewrite something if I have something written in the first place. So I’ll be pushing through with it, and hoping I can at least see this draft through to the end.

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(I found this on pinterest and thought you guys might appreciate it).

Happy writing,

Emma-Kate xoxo

Posted in tips, update

Are you going OK?

Hey guys! So, we’re halfway through Nanowrimo/November, and the end of the year is drawing near. For those doing Nano: how are you doing? I bet you’re nailing this. You can do it, I believe in you. For those of you not doing Nanowrimo: how are your goals going? Not even writing ones, like any? Are you doing OK?

Sometimes, when we get caught up in life, in goals, in work, we forget to take care of ourselves. I know I’m super guilty of this, which is especially hard as I do carry the burden of mental illnesses. In the push to not let those define me, I neglect myself a lot, and suffer as a result. This easy easy to do even when you’re not sick! So this weeks blog, I’m going to make sure both you and I are doing things to take care of ourselves?

  • Are you getting enough sunlight/water/exercise?
  • Have you done something nice for yourself? i.e. a bath, curled up with a book/video game/craft?
  • Are you regularly taking time out for relaxation?
  • How is your stress? Are you feeling down, depressed, exhausted, etc? Have you spoken to anyone about it? If so, you should.
  • Are you sleeping enough? Set a good sleeping pattern- it makes a lot of difference to the quality of your life, your energy, and the effort you put into your work.

You matter as much as your work, or your writing, or anything else that matters in your life. You need to take time out for yourself, and to make sure you’re taken care of. So this is a reminder to go do something right now that’s nice for yourself. I don’t care, you go do it.

Happy writing,

Emma-Kate xoxo

Posted in Nanowrimo, tips, update, writing

Ready, steady, write.

Hey guys! For those of you doing Nanowrimo next week, this post is for you. For those of you that aren’t doing Nano; my words of encouragement are still for you, too!

With November fast approaching and the harried last minute notes flying, stress levels (at least in my head!) are super high right now. There is a lot of doubt, a lot of tension. Are my notes sufficient? Is my story outline cohesive? Am I going to get stuck down in the cringey, lackluster first draft? Am I going to win Nanowrimo? Can I fulfill my goals as well as my commitments to everything else in my life?

Stress less guys. Take a deep breath in, and out. It’s going to be OK. We write all the time, right? This isn’t new for us. I know some of you thrive on goals like I do (I live for ticking things off of to do lists or using small goals to tear down a big one).

Here are a few things I’ll be doing this week to prepare, and I hope they’ll help you:

  • Doing a massive tidy up. I’ll still clean a bit during November but it’s easier to work/harder to procrastinate if everything is already taken care of!
  • Having writing tools ready. This year I’ll be using Cold Turkey Writer. It’s a really nifty little program; once you start it up, you can’t use your computer at all until you’ve reached the word or time limit you set. It forces you to write and concentrate (I also work really well with smaller goals as I stated earlier, so I get immense satisfaction watching the progress bar fill!)
  • To tie in with this, I’ve made playlists ready to turn on before I open Cold Turkey so there is no messing around. I found a few pre-made ones that worked really well for Nanowrimo too. This is my main spotify playlist for Nanowrimo, a fantasy reading music playlist some kind soul made that I’m in love with!
  • I’m making a bunch of veggie soup to go in the freezer. Bam, instant easy meal for when I want to write and not think!
  • Making sure I have multiple water bottles topped up in the fridge at the start of each morning so I have plenty of cold water.
  • Food shopping: On top of actually making soup, I’ll be doing a massive shopping trip at the start of the month and buying some freezer meals, some healthy snacks, etc.
  • Reward box: I have a halloween bucket full of candy, so I get a fun sized piece for every 2k words written (my daily goal)

This is pretty much everything I have/am going to be doing to get myself all zoned for Nanowrimo. Other than list some ideas to optimize time, I also want to offer some words of encouragement. It’s OK not to win Nanowrimo. Honestly, taking time for yourself and writing at all means you’ve already won something important. Don’t stress too much about the quality; that’s what rewrites are for. Don’t worry too much either if your story strays from your notes. They tend to do that, just go with the flow and see where it takes you. Don’t let writing detract from important things like sleep, eating, and your overall physical and mental health. Most of all, and I don’t say this lightly- whatever you might be writing, actually enjoy what you’re doing. This is your work, and you deserve to have fun with it.

I can’t wait to see what everyone manages in November, and I wish you all the best of luck.

Happy writing,

Emma-Kate xoxo

Posted in tips, update, writing

World building

So today’s blog is going to be a short, but rather relevant to myself topic: world building. For nanowrimo, I’ve been looking into this a lot. There are a lot of facets that go into  making a world believable and well built. It can easily be overwhelming and get boring fast. What information is important? What is stuff that is going to be relevant to the exposition, and what is only relevant to me, the God of this world?

I spent a large amount of time looking through reddit threads, reading other panicked writers get lost and confused, when one lovely person posted the single most important (and possibly only) bit of information that you’ll need for writing.

This is how you build a good world, friends.

Seriously, that’s all you need. I don’t think there are any bits to world building or any questions I had that aren’t covered in this! Bam, you’re welcome.

On that note, I am a teensy bit overwhelmed with plotting and planning, but hopefully I can introduce a little bit of my world to you guys soon!

Happy writing,

Emma-Kate xoxo