a letter from: bangor

With my workload about to creep up, and the magic of Christmas and New Year fading out, I really wasn’t looking forward to January. A ten minute discussion with Meg, a quick scout through AirBnB, and a double check of the calendar, and we’d booked a trip to Bangor. The plan was to start the year on a high, outdoors, and doing something fun and spontaneous. And it was exactly that.

We found a cheap and lovely looking AirBnB in Tregarth (I’d much rather be somewhere homey where I can fully relax and not be bothering anyone) deciding on North Wales as we’ve both been before and loved it. Meg actually went to Bangor Uni and it was my second choice, pipped to the post in the end by Bath.

I’d already set my mission of more adventures and spontaneity at this point, so I was excited to be booking something for a weeks’ time, and only vaguely planning out possibilities of what we could do.

With it only being a couple of hours away, we decided we wouldn’t rush to set off after work on the Friday, and instead managed to miss the rush hour traffic, enjoying a scenic (very dark) drive to our destination. We’d packed a crate of prosecco (emergency rations, just in case…) and spent the Friday night planning our next two days.

We decided as we were only 10 minutes from the centre of Bangor to head into town on the Saturday morning, before driving up to Anglesey to visit Newborough beach (where we ended up going for a swim – much to the amusement of everyone around us), then headed up to South Stack Lighthouse, eating chips whilst watching the sun go down, before driving back to the house. If you’ve never been up this neck of the woods, I’d definitely recommend. As a creative person, there is so much inspiration on every road, or in every building (or sheep) you drive past.

50592348_750277375342455_5209997958015090688_n

Newborough is fab, and the tide is never fully in so there is always beach to be played on. Top tip: there’s a rope swing nestled at the very end of the woods on your right as you’re walking to the far end of the beach. It’s close to the edge of the trees so you can see it when you get near, and it is incredibly fun. Surprisingly, not many of the people we saw knew about it. We couldn’t resist giving it a spin (and I can vouch for it being lots of fun!) The parking is £5 for all day, and it is very clean and well maintained. There was even a hot drink/food van, too, for after our January dip!

50394048_2236012520020145_2039423808430931968_n

South Stack is about a twenty minute drive from Newborough, and neither of us had been before so we thought it would be a good chance to go. It was fab, and we deliberately timed it so we’d get there to see the sunset as backdrop.

50669974_229163751347123_3747387965379182592_n

We stopped at a local chippy on the way, stocking up on chips with curry sauce to keep us warm whilst we sat, practically on the edge of Wales, watching the world fall asleep. There’s not a huge amount around to do, but the views themselves are stunning. Definitely worth a pit stop if you’re in the area.

50491136_595720194183250_4945006829563281408_n

A few of Meg’s friends from uni were around that evening so we planned to meet them in Bangor for a few drinks and some boogieing. A pizza, some prosecco, and a film later, we got ready and headed out to meet them. I love the simplicity of Bangor town. There’s nothing extravagantly fancy, and if there was it would quite simply be out of place. It’s homely, and welcoming, and the pubs we went in were all full of character (and sold Guinness – a definite win.)

On the Sunday we got up, said goodbye to the lovely cottage we’d made our home (and the most amazing beds in the WORLD!) and headed back to Bangor to collect Meg’s friend, Rob, who joined us on our adventure up the Watkins Path of Mount Snowdon.

A top up of oil and some screenwash (for the car) and we were on our way, tootling up and down, around the windiest roads with the prettiest views. After a reasonably chilly Saturday, we were surprised by the mildness that arrived on Sunday (good news as the whole point of us going up this route was for a dip in the Watkin pools on the mountain.)

We parked on the A498 outside of Beddgelert, just at the bottom of the path. There is a proper car park on the opposite side of the road, but there’s also a little lay-by you can stop in just before the path on the left side. We arrived around lunchtime and there was lots of space left. We took lots of layers with us (prepared to be freezing after our swim) along with snacks and flasks of tea, and set off.

50224097_511555729368501_6355025544660123648_n

We weren’t planning on summiting Snowdon, our main aim was to manage a swim in the pools before coming down to warm ourselves back up. The walk up to the pools is only about half an hour. You follow the donkey track over several bridges and woodland until it opens out and you are fully surrounded by mountains. To get to the pools you need to take a path that cuts below the main path, towards a bridge and waterfall which you can see from the main trail. We crossed the bridge, went over a style and we were there. The water in the pools was a Mediterranean blue and looked so beautiful in the surrounding mountains. We already had our swimming cossis on, prepared for a quick dip without getting too cold. The main path up the mountain was slightly above us so we were passed by lots of interested walkers who were a bit surprised to see three eager swimmers in January.

50903766_615639192199485_2633196414263361536_n

Rob braved it first, dipping his feet in and paddling around the rocks to the edge of the main pool bit. Meg followed, and then me.

It was freezing, there’s no denying that, but the adrenaline meant I felt on top of the world and was having the best time, ever.

I was first to properly get in, sinking my body under the water a little at a time so it wasn’t a huge shock. Meg and Rob also joined, and we spent fifteen minutes giggling, pulling the weirdest faces, and gasping in response to the freezing temperature.

After ten minutes laying in the pool, I was bright red and frozen. I looked like I’d been sunbathing without suncream for a whole day. Luckily we’d brought several thick extra layers and so we all got dressed and then sat on a rock across the bridge, overlooking the ‘valley’ like view surrounding us. We had brought mini bottles of prosecco (this seems to be a growing theme to the trip…) and enjoyed sipping between them and the flasks of tea, warming up with food and full winter accessories.

50692540_2046273622076458_8619438869839872000_n

I’d definitely recommend doing it (although I’m sure it’d be more comfortable if it was above 1 degree in the water). If January is your bag, don’t forget the flasks and extra layers (and I’d recommend the prosecco for celebrating being complete nutters after.)

Let’s hope the New Year continues this way, with lots more wild swimming, prosecco drinking, and spontaneous adventures! And here’s to visiting Bangor again many times, because it was blooming marvellous!

love sophie

writing prompts to scream about

BOO!

In the spirit of Halloween, I’m treating you all to five deadly writing prompts that will keep even the most bloodshot eyes reading… Have a stab at them and let me know what you think!

 

1. Write what you know…

What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you? Why was it so scary? Can you describe it in detail?

Sometimes, our best writing comes when we know exactly what we’re doing (whether it’s based on real life, or just because we’ve planned it.)

 

2. Characterisation…

Create your own ‘monster’… why is it a monster? What does it look like? How does it sound? Put it in different situations/settings – how does it react?

 

3. Retelling…

It is common for lots of popular books, e.g. fairytales, to be rewritten/told in a different way. Pick one of your favourite books and add a monster/scary character. What does this mean for the protagonist? How does it change the story?

 

4. Dialogue…

A great way to start writing is by using a line of dialogue. Try and continue the story from the line below.

‘Did you miss me?’ the porcelain doll said, before rolling off the shelf and splintering into a thousand pieces, blood covering the floor.

 

5. Comedy…

Not all horror is/has to be scary. Try and write a classic horror story but with humour added. What happens? How do the characters change?

 

I hope you find these ideas useful – and if you have any yourself, I’d love to hear them!

love sophie

reader, i finished it.

Reader, I finished it.

The pen has been dropped, the printer is out of ink, and I don’t think my hands would let me type another word if I tried.

I’m back in Bath after handing it all in, and it feels surreal.

I stayed with Nina, a friend I met at uni, and we celebrated by dancing to ABBA, drinking prosecco, and making vegan cookies. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I drove to Corsham Court to hand it into the uni drop box, making sure it was presented in pristine condition and that I’d filled out the correct course and the right details (knowing my luck I’d have put the wrong module number, or student reference).

I’d been in touch with some of my classmates and we all ended up meeting for a picnic before the ceremonial photo in front of the building and dropping our manuscripts off before heading to the pub! I don’t think I felt like I was sending my baby out into the real world.

It wasn’t perfect, and in places it was very rough, but it was a first draft novel. And what’s important, is I had finished it.

I’m heading back home to bask in my success before the job hunt and adult life seriously begins. That’s the bit I’m dreading most.

But I’m one chuffed writer. After the last few months of struggling to write paragraphs, I’m so pleased I managed to complete my manuscript and hand it in with my peers.

Now to celebrate properly back home in Leeds!

(And no, you can’t read it yet. I’ll let you know when it’s ready for eager eyes, don’t worry.)

love sophie

my love for letter writing

Call me old school, but there’s just something so special about receiving a handwritten letter or note in the post.

Since I started uni in 2014, I’ve regularly kept in touch with my family, friends and the people back at home by writing updates and sending them away in the post. There’s something so lovely about a day out ending with writing a postcard to back home telling them about what you got up to, or receiving one back. If anything, they’re lovely to keep yourself. I know lots of people who write to themselves whilst they’re away on holiday, almost like a brief diary entry, which they stick in the photo album and can use as a keepsake. I think it’s a really nice idea, I just never seem to remember to do it, or end up just keeping a diary in a notebook.

Letter writing has always been something I’ve done. My mum would make us write thank you letters after every birthday, every Christmas, every time we ever received something from someone. There was something so therapeutic about writing them, and including what you did to celebrate or what you’ve done with the present. When I was younger, I used to hate writing them out, and preferred ringing up my Grandma’s and thanking them on the phone, or in person. But now I’m older, and my hatred of phone calls has grown, I’d much rather write a letter. I think there’s something so personal about it.

I’ve kept all of the letters I’ve ever been sent, and lots of them are organised and numbered or dated, so I know when they came and where they came from. It’s lovely to have them to look back on now, especially those from my first year of uni where I’d forgotten most of what I’d got up to, and when I was younger and can’t remember the presents I’d been given.

I’ve heard of people writing letters to themselves and opening them in twenty years time, but I’m yet to do that. You’re supposed to write what you hope to have achieved and where you hope to be, but the idea just scares me. Who knows where I’ll be in twenty years time. Who knows what life will be like then.

If you don’t usually write letters, or haven’t ever really thought about it, give it a go. Ask a friend in a different city or country to be a penpal and get writing. It’s surprising how much fun you can have with it – I always send a teabag with mine, so the person receiving it can take five minutes to read it with a brew.

There are lots of companies and charities who also provide letters for people in hospitals, those who are in nursing homes, as well as people receiving treatment. This is something you could look into if you were getting started. There are lots of things in your life that someone would like to hear about – you just don’t realise it.

 

love sophie

manuscript meanderings feat. tea

It’s coming to that time in my Masters where I need to start prepping myself to work independently now that my contact hours will soon be over, and I’ll have 40,000 words to  prepare, write, and edit for my hand in. This is always something I’ve struggled with, as I know I’m easily distracted and often pop the kettle on just to have five minutes away from the reality of my workload. (Surely I’m not the only one?)

I’ve started thinking about my manuscript, where it’s up to currently, and where I see it going for my deadline in September (which is creeping closer and closer each minute.) Planning is a crucial thing for me right now. Even though it’s not my favourite thing in the world, I know it will help in the long run.

As much as I rave about planning it all out, I don’t find it easy and often spend more time planning than I spent writing. That in principal is fine, but if you’re me, it can often go the opposite way and hinder your writing because you are trying too hard to fit a mould you’ve spent ages creating. Finding a balance with planning is something I’ve been working on so that I am able to plan bits and not get caught up in the concrete parts, but rather use it more as a flexible structure.

As my novel is dual narrative, and written in months as opposed to chapters, it’s quite hard for me to pinpoint a whole selection of plot points to include. What I can do, however, is take each month and write out what scenes I think will be included and how my characters will be feeling.

Are they having a crap day at school? Spending their free time somewhere they really don’t want to be? Lost somewhere and unable to find there way home?

Bringing the characters emotions into the plan really helps me to see their character arc developing, as well as the novel, without thinking too hard about concrete structures. Sometimes we get too caught up in things that we think are crucial, and actually lose focus on the main plot, and our characters, which are the story.

If you’re struggling to plan out a long piece, or with structuring a small piece, try piecing together what the scene looks like and what emotion your character is carrying at that moment. It might help you to see what doesn’t work, which is just as helpful as finding out what does!

Let me know if it helps!

love sophie

 

 

bogged down in word counts: where did my story go?

I’m feeling pretty rubbish about writing at the moment. I don’t know if it’s the impending doom of deadlines, or the fact I’m struggling to write even a word of my manuscript, but the pen has been dropped and I’ve left the writing desk. I even devoured a full punnet of blueberries and scoffed a full block of chocolate in misery (did I mention I’m lactose intolerant?) I can honestly say: it doesn’t help.

I just can’t blooming do it.

And I’ve decided, for now, that it’s fine.

Writing is such a solitary venture that even with a head full of characters you can feel more alone than ever. My attempt at giving up social media during the daytime to focus on my work was an absolute disaster which hasn’t helped. And the worry of falling behind with work has left me skipping fun sociable things which in reality are helpful for my writing and spark my creativity.

I’m finding the balance of it all really difficult, and every time I think I’m getting there, the scales start tipping.

Alas! I’m hoping a couple of days off topic, mooching around on my bike, and reading other people’s words, will do wonders to mine. Here’s hoping!

Have you got any top tips on how to keep ploughing through your word count? And how to keep motivated? If you do, I’m all ears!

love sophie

writing dates: do they help or hinder?

February was one of those head-down-get-on-with-it kind of months (as well as lets-hit-Sophie-with-the-flu-just-when-she-doesn’t-need-it.) With just shy of 15,000 words due, I was trying to save every ounce of energy up to write my essays, and assignments. But when you can’t even think straight and spend most of the day coughing (my whole January was more like dry cough January than dry January) it’s difficult to get much done.

Cue a lot of writing dates with other writers/peers/anyone who would take me up on my offer of free flowing tea and biscuits, in the hope of it being inspiring and actually making me do some work.

But did it really help?

Here are the things I noticed happening to my work/me:

1. It got competitive

I’m not a hugely competitive person *flips the board of monopoly if she doesn’t get Mayfair* but there’s something about people sitting around laptops, typing endlessly which gets incredibly competitive. Now, this in theory is great, it means that you’re in competition to write the most and do the most work. But actually, what comes out of this (unless you’re a Sara Barnard level A+writer) is a very very very first draft which makes no sense. Yes I managed to write lots, but it wasn’t necessarily good stuff and needed lots of editing when I managed to escape back under the blankets with a cuppa.

2. It can be the world’s best procrastination

So you’re sat with your laptop, you’ve got a brew and you’re ready to get cracking on your next chapter. WRONG. Instead, you end up listening to your friends detail the whole night out that you missed in the classic debrief. You get way too into it, completely forget the reason you’re there, and suddenly you’re watching videos of cute goats on YouTube? (please tell me I’m not the only one?) Three hours later and you’ve exhausted yourself to the point of no work, so you turn to Netflix and drown your sorrows in tea, saying ‘It’s okay, I’ll do it tomorrow…’ even if tomorrow is the deadline.

3. It can be very distracting

This is especially the case if you’re all working on the same assignment. Or even if you’re all trying to do the same kind of thing. When it comes to writing, a lot of research is involved, especially if it’s high fantasy or historical, or you need to be factually correct with characters etc. This is all good and well until someone whips out a truck load of information which is then put on you because you just need to know it too. I think I’ve learnt more from my peers who have been researching for their books than I ever did when it came to researching for my own things. And then there’s the breaks. If someone pops to the loo, makes a drink, or declares lunchtime, it only seems fitting to take a break too. Even if you’ve only written the title.

4. It’s an emotional battle

Just like reading a book, there’s a definite emotional rollercoaster that comes with writing dates. I don’t know whether it’s having someone you can complain to/talk things through with, or whether it’s just because it can be really hard, but writing dates often turn into therapy sessions punctuated with ‘you can do this’ and ‘just focus on writing this chapter’ which is all good and well if you have an idea you believe in. This is when those extra biscuits you brought (just in case) make their way out whilst you shut down all your word documents and cry internally over the fact you’re never going to get published. You then have to sit there whilst the other people, who are still tapping away on their keyboards, continue to casually mosey on through the brick wall ahead. Total writing torture.

5. Everything takes time

When initially planning the date, you have to bear in mind that at least 70% of it will be spent making tea, talking, scrolling through your phone, eating, giggling, watching funny videos, etc. So you only ever really get 30% maximum done. This is something you should take into account when planning when to meet and where. If you meet before lunch, you may be more productive in the morning but end up having more breaks. If you meet after lunch you might have passed the most productive part of your day. It’s a battle you sometimes just can’t win. I try and meet up as early as possible because then at least I’ve given myself the whole day to procrastinate. And even if I don’t manage the target of words I set (or even half of them) I know that it’s more than I would have done anyway.

Let me know if you have any tips on writing in a group, and whether there are any ways it helps you/any suggestions to make it work better!

love sophie

rainy days: inspiration in the weather 

I ventured out of the house today for all of ten minutes. I came back in looking like a drowned rat and my clothes were drenched through with rain water. But I loved it.

I think rainy days, although often miserable because you maybe can’t do what you’d planned, are my favourites. They bring about a spontaneity which you don’t get if your plans go ahead, and everything runs like clockwork.

I’m also a lover of anything muddy and mucky, something many people don’t realise about me. I’d rather spend a day on the beach, mid-winter, making mud pies and paddling in the sea in just my knickers and a jumper than being snuggled up inside watching films all day. And I love riding my bike through big, boggy puddles and splashing mud all over myself whilst steaming downhill. Obviously, the hot bubble bath and film night that follows is still on the cards, I just feel like it’s been earned. And, although cleaning the bike in the dark is a chore, the mud splatters are worth it.

One thing rainy days really help with is my inspiration for writing. I can be on a beach, on a mountain, or tucked up watching raindrops race down the window from inside, and I’ll be able to channel my character, or just be a kid again.

Stomping in muddy puddles – minus wellies – is the best. Yes, your feet get cold. Yes, your shoes get damp. But they dry, and you soon get warm again. The thrill of doing something that nobody else is doing, and something that would normally be suggested as a bad idea makes it all the more fun.

Don’t get me wrong, I like summer. And I like it when it doesn’t rain, too. But for those ten minutes of leaving the house today, I felt like a kid again. I was soaked through to my socks, and had to stuff my shoes with newspaper so they’d dry, but I came in, warmed up, and started writing.

Is there a season you prefer to write in? Does the rain help your writing, too? Let me know!

love sophie

social sundays: the importance of getting out and about when writing

I left the house on Sunday for what felt like the first time in months. (Am I the only one who thinks January is dragging?!) I got the bus (having sucked it up and hoped that because it was a Sunday, I wouldn’t be bashed about) and met up with a friend from uni who I haven’t seen since we both graduated in July – too long!

It was super nice to just get out of the house for a few hours and spend some time in someone else’s company. (It’s amazing how solitary writing can be, and how long you can go without speaking to anyone in person or on the phone.)

We went to Velo Lounge, an old favourite from our student-ville days when it was just a short walk away. We sipped our way through large and small pots of tea, and chatted about life, our jobs, our houses (so adult) before laughing over old videos from our student days (which was incredibly amusing – it’s crazy to see how much we’ve changed in three years!)

It did wonders to be in a different place, out of the house, and in the fresh air. All too often (especially when those pesky deadlines come looming) I’ll barricade myself at the writing desk until they’re all done. It doesn’t help, in fact if anything it makes it 1000x worse. But the thought of being in front of the laptop and fully immersed in it makes me think I’ll actually write.

That’s until I actually leave my room and forget about what I’m writing for a bit. Then it all just flows out of my brain like it’s been scripted. (I know this, so I know I should leave my desk but sometimes it’s just too stressful to step away.) I always take a pen and notebook with me, and I have one in the car for when I’m driving around for inspiration which is actually very very full (night time driving is the cure of the supposed writers block for me). I also use my phone a lot to jot things down, even if it’s just a conversation I hear, or a description of what someone is wearing (a bit weird but I’m a writer so I have an excuse.)

Anyway, after we’d drunk buckets of tea and chatted for several hours, we said our goodbyes and I was automatically inspired to write. AMAZING!

I have to grab moments like these and run with them because they don’t often stay for long. I managed to write a lot of words which was great, but more importantly I got to use what I’d written in my journal that day of all the things I’d seen and done.

I even used things we’d talked about over lunch when looking at my character arcs.

It’s amazing how much can come out of one adventure away from the writing desk.

I’ve been keeping up with my morning pages which has been going really well this month, so it’s nice to get the opportunity to expand and develop little ideas that have been niggling their way to the front of my brain.

Safe to say it’s had a domino effect and I’ve been out of the house everyday since Sunday too (it was only one day but it still counts.) Yesterday I went along to rugby training (which I really didn’t feel up to but I’m so glad I did) and the same thing happened. I came home and wrote words. Actual, proper words that make sense when joined together.

For anyone else struggling with the inevitable block, put your shoes on, grab a brolly and go and take on the outdoors. It doesn’t have to be loads, it could just be a walk around the garden or a trip to the postbox down the street. Take some time away from your writing and it might just catch right up with you.

Let me know if you have any luck!

love sophie

the morning pages

It’s January so I’ve decided, in the spirit of a fresh year, to rekindle my love for the morning pages.

The idea of the morning pages is that you write three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. Everyday.

I use it as a tool to develop ideas about my plot or about my characters and the novel’s development. The purpose is to bring about ideas, give you a clearer mind about your plan, and relieve any anxieties you may have.

Now, you don’t have to use all of it. It could all be crap. But the point is that you get in the routine of writing daily, getting your worries out onto the page first thing so that you can move past them and spend the day writing creatively. It can be whatever you make of it.

If you’re not a writer, or don’t want a novel at the end of it, then simply use it as a tool to de-stress from life. You could wake up after the most vivid dream and decide to write it down, or use it to plan out what you’re going to do with your week. Or, you can just use it as a tool to create a diary.

What I love about the idea of the morning pages is the freedom that comes with it. All it requires is fifteen minutes (or so) a day which can be built up or continued if you’d like. It is such a simple way of writing each day, whether it is a diary, a blog, or a novel, you’ll have a book full of your year at the end of it.

I love that you can use it for absolutely anything. One day you could have a chapter from a novel, the next you could include a crazy dream or a recipe, or a list of hopes for the week/month/year.

It’s flexibility means you can take it with you on the go, so that wherever you are you can get it out and add to it for that day.

Journaling is something I find really therapeutic. I am definitely someone who likes to see things written down and find it easier to then continue with whatever I have to do. It’s as if I have to empty my head before I can refill it with the next day. So, for me, this is such an easy way of doing that whilst also helping me with develop my novel.

Some of the snippets I wrote in it last year (in fact most of them) have either been edited into my novel, or have inspired scenes and characters.

So, if you’re like me and get quite overwhelmed if everything’s running circles in your head, why not try it out. For me, I have to put pen to paper, but a laptop works just the same. Grab a notepad or a blank word document and write away.

Hopefully it leaves you feeling assured and organised about what you’re writing/what you’re doing/where you’re at with everything.

If anything, it’s a chance to take fifteen minutes away from the day, with a brew, to just sit quietly, reflect and think.

Let me know how you find it!

love sophie