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

 

 

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

book club: goodbye, perfect (proof)

I was very fortunate to land myself one of the beautiful proof copies of Sara Barnard’s Goodbye, Perfect and have thoroughly enjoyed worming my way through it. I was completely transfixed by the characters and am incredibly excited for it to come out in full publication glory in February. It was captivating, honest, and blooming fab! I love Barnard and don’t deny she is definitely my girl crush.

But seeing the proof got me thinking about how much goes into the publishing process and how long it takes for a story to go from being a blank word document to a bound and beautifully marketed book.

Once I finished the book and put it down (and after a ‘I’m-sad-that-it’s-over-but-feel-better-brew’) I sat for quite a long time just staring at it and then at my own word document which was open on my laptop. It made me realise that the book I’d just read was once a Word Document, being edited, read, reread, deleted. Just like mine.

We’re in the middle of NaNoWrMo at the minute (National Novel Writing Month) and, although I’m not taking part, I have been using it as motivation to try and up my word count.

I felt that the beautifully bound book I had in my mind was so far away, but looking at my word document made me realise it’s a lot closer than it could be (18,583 words closer to be exact.)

In November alone I’ve written 6,000 of these words. Now, to some people, that’s nothing, but to me, it’s huge (especially seen as I wasn’t actually in the country for one week.)

I realised, sitting between my unfinished manuscript and Barnard’s proof, that the key to writing is reading. It is such a catalyst to great words and great works. I struggled to keep on top of reading when I began my manuscript, especially reading for pleasure. I was too deep in thick research and books I would never usually choose to read that I lost my way with reading.

This year, since I’ve started the MA, I’ve found my way back. Although it’s not always for pleasure, I find that I’m reading a lot of good stuff which is helping to nourish my own work.

Reading Goodbye, Perfect made me realise that the challenge of writing really is worth it. That the pudding really is sweet and delicious and worth the trials and tribulations the process brings.

So, read. It doesn’t even have to be a book. Read the ingredients on the cereal box, read the road signs, read the adverts on the bus.

The words do wonders to your own.

love sophie

 

unintentional inspiration

I did the school run with my mum this morning and it was such a blast from the past going back to my old primary school, which I left ten years ago! I was amazed at the different changes that have happened since I left, and how the space has adapted to the growing intake and the ‘modern day’.

I went around the back and into the playground where the key stage two children queue up and found myself in an enchanted wonderland. From the pride flag, to a beautiful literary themed signpost, the playground had it all. I wish it had been like that when I was there, and it made me realise just how much has changed in the last ten years.

It also really inspired me to write.

I don’t know whether it was the reminiscent nature of it all, or the enchanting setting, or even whether it was just a good writing day for me. But whatever it was did wonders! I came home and bashed out a good chapter and felt really enthusiastic about where it was going and what I was writing.

I often really struggle for inspiration and forget to look closely at something. I can try really hard to think of something to write but when I read it back, I never like it. For me, the best writing always comes when I least expect it to.

Going back to the primary school today made me realise how fortunate I am, and how grateful I am to have had my education.

I thought about my protagonist and how they would feel at school. I thought about their own school ‘world’ and tried to build on one I had created before. I thought about my own experience of primary school and some very fond memories and friends.

It really helped.

It also made me think like a child.

A big struggle I think a lot of children’s writers face is getting into the mindset of a child. Unless you have/know a child, it is really difficult to imagine one without creating a subjective opinion.

It is very easy as an author to ‘write what you know.’ But the most difficult thing is writing for something or someone you find difficult.

We all have our own childhood which we remember (or not), but I think that makes it even more difficult when trying to imagine a child who is different to you.

If you were incredibly hard working, it is possibly quite hard for you to imagine being someone who struggled with work ethic. If you got on with your teacher and had a good relationship with them, it is hard to imagine being someone who really didn’t agree with the teacher. At least without stereotyping.

One thing I find difficult with writing a variety of characters is how well I’m portraying them to the reader. I don’t want the reader to see a stereotypical view on something. I want them to see the character I created. The character for themselves.

I think that having those unintentional inspirational moments can really help with this in your writing. You might be able to make your character more than just two dimensional. Having that inspiration, such as hearing a conversation between children, seeing them interact with adults etc, can really improve your writing.

You might not even realise it’s happened.

love sophie

Festifeel and other adventures of the boob kind

As I’m currently raising money for the boob-loving charity, CoppaFeel! I ventured to London, with some boob-baes to show our support and enjoy a day full of boobie banter, live music and glitter!

We had a great day listening to music from Pixie Lott and Fleur East (amongst others) as well as hearing some wonderful poets and hilarious comedians. It was a great day and it was filled with so much love and positivity.

Headed up by the boob queen Kris Hallenga and Fearne Cotton, the day paid tribute to the success of the charity and its many supporters.

I absolutely loved getting my glitter on and having a good old boogie to some of the best tunes I remember from my childhood. It isn’t every day you get to see Busted headline in such an intimate space. And it was boobin’ incredible!

I hadn’t met up with lots of the people from the Oman trek yet so it was a great opportunity to chat to them, have a dance and a couple of G&Ts!

House of Vans was an incredible venue and CoppaFeel! had received so much support that the festival seemed to have everything. From the live music to comedians, to boob booth and their very own Boobtown and Casa CoppaFeel! Artists were on hand to help with graffiti lessons for the vaults outside the venue, and skateboarders and other kinds of people on wheels were showing their moves. It was AMAZING!

And it all helped raise money for their wonderful charity!

Along with seeing lots of other fabulous people, including Ellie (the CoppaFeel Fundraising Queen), we also got to see Giovanna who will be leading my team on the trek across the desert.

It is so nice to have such a wonderful excuse to all come together on a Saturday to celebrate life and have fun sharing the boob love! (Covered in glitter!)

It made me even more excited for the trek, and having time away from my novel gave me several new ideas without thinking about it.

I will often find myself feeling guilty spending the day at an event/out and putting off writing, but I think it’s important to realise how valuable it can be. It’s first hand research.

I came away thinking that my protagonist would absolutely love the kind of music Busted and Pixie Lott sing, and it got me imagining how they would act at a festival. What a bonus!

Have you done anything recently, or been anywhere, that has inspired your writing? You might not have even noticed!

Let me know!

love sophie

soundtrack series: october

Where did October go? It’s been a wonderful month of new writing plans and exciting ventures, coupled with the beginning of my MA in Writing For Young People which I am absolutely loving! And new music!

When I was writing the opening towards the beginning of the year, I found Birdy to be a constant presence on my writing playlist. But I’ve discovered some new loves which help me get pen to page.

I’ve listed my top five artists of October for you below. Enjoy!

  1. Frances.

Have I been living under a rock or what?! OMG. The first time I heard Grow I didn’t want it to end. I definitely don’t mind admitting I had it on repeat for a solid week before I listened to any of her other songs. Don’t Worry About Me is also a gorgeous song to have on when writing. There’s something about her mystical voice and the piano keys which takes you off somewhere magical and lets you discover a whole new world. If you haven’t discovered her yet, DO IT! I promise you won’t regret listening to her delicious lyrics.

2. Jamie Lawson

I’ve never really listened to any of Jamie’s music before, but I recently listened to Don’t Let Me Let You Go and I fell in love with it. It’s a silky dream of a song and sits into the backdrop so you can still work. His voice is so relaxing and his lyrics are honest. I wasn’t a huge fan of Wasn’t Expecting That after a few plays, but I can’t seem to get this one off repeat! Definitely worth a listen, especially if you like Passenger.

3. Calum Scott

Oh my. I’ve always been a fan of this guy since his audition on The X Factor where he sang Dancing On My Own (one of my favourite songs). But he’s gracing my life with his face and voice again in his new single out in November You Are The Reason. And it is simply stunning. Definitely one of my favourite voices to listen to when I’m wrapped up in blankets with a cuppa trying to write.

4. Tori Kelly

Callen and Beth introduced me to her song Dear No One when we were in the car driving to our writing date a few days ago. It is one of the catchiest songs I’ve heard in a while and I like the relatable lyrics and the singalong quality it brought to the car journey. Songs like this are quick to put a smile on my face and make me feel in the mood to write. To say the song is three years old is telling of how timeless the lyrics are and how much fun three people can have in a car when it’s blasting out.

5. Imagine Dragons

Not Today, from the Me Before You Soundtrack, is one of the most beautiful songs (I might be bias because I think the same about the film). I love the textured voice behind the lyrics. It’s not their usual rocky number which I think is why I like it so much. The string layer along with the guitar lifts the song and makes it writing-backdrop-worthy. I find myself singing along whilst trying to picture characters in different situations and it somehow helps.

Are there any songs which you’ve found helpful whilst writing this month?

Let me know!

love sophie

crispy leaves and fruity teas

There’s nothing quite like the sound of a leather sole against crunching, tangerine leaves. Or a huge mug of granny’s garden tea paired with windswept hair and a good book. This year, Autumn has come around way too quickly for my liking (and will no doubt vanish before I manage to catch up with it!) I have landed – all be it a bit late – in classic Sophie style: oversized mustard knits, button-down skirts and brown leather boots.

So, what is it about autumn that I find so inspiring?

  1. Writing wonderful words

Whether it’s a cold night in with candles, or a sunny day with misty grass, there is always a form of beauty in the nature of autumn time. And it always helps me feel inspired to write. I can sit down with a cuppa and blast out a few pages, all because I’m surrounded by such beautiful things. Summer is too hot, winter is too cold and spring is when you get caught in the rain because you set off in glorious sunshine and the heavens decide to open. And you forgot your raincoat. Autumn is the perfect setting to write within.

  1. Comfortable creativity

We don’t always want to do our work and be adults (or at least I don’t) so when motivation is lacking, I always find it helps to be comfortable. And autumn fashion allows that. Chunky knits? Check. Woolly tights? Check. A funky bobble hat which makes my head look like the moon? Check. If I’m not sat wrapped in a blanket, or sipping a cup of tea, I’ll spend half the day procrastinating by making myself comfortable.

  1. Atmospheric aesthetic

Get the candles on and wrap yourself up in a duvet (you wouldn’t find me saying that in June, would you?) That’s the joy of autumn. It’s okay to spend the day in your duvet, working from bed. And I actually find I get more stuff done. The aromas from the candles and the comfort of being inside whilst watching the world out of the window does wonders to my schedule. I find sorting things out (especially very adulty things, like car tax) to be the most frustrating thing ever. But with a backdrop of autumn I feel relaxed before I begin and the whole thing goes a lot smoother that I imagine. In summer I’d just be too hot and uncomfortable, and in winter I’d only be able to pull one hand from out of the duvet at a time. I don’t want frostbite, do I?

  1. Basking in Beauty

Everywhere I look in autumn leads me to something beautiful. Whether it be the dewy grass, the marmalade skies, or the view from the inside out. I always find myself appreciating the little treats nature offers and I can’t help but love it. And feel inspired. I look at the grass and I imagine the world below it and the nature that lives in it. I see the sunset and I remember lots of memories I have and just want to revel in them. I look out the window and try to imagine how my character would see the world. Would they see autumn like I do?

5. Fruity tea

What better excuse (not that I need one) to try a variety of fruity teas to match those cosy autumn days. Granny’s Garden, Peach Oolong, or a simple Rooibos are my favourites. And I love the injection of cinnamon and spices as the wintry nights get closer. Tea is a great way of taking care of yourself. Feeling down? Get cosy with a brew. Struggling to work? Take a tea break, even if it just means taking five minutes out of the day for yourself. I love looking out of my french doors onto the world from inside the comfort of my room, sipping on tea. It makes the nights seem warmer and the days seem brighter.

6. Sensory soundtrack

There’s nothing quite like blasting classic songs from your tin can of a car as you’re driving down a country lane, surrounded by fields of dewy crops. That’s the beauty of autumn. I could get in the car and drive for miles, especially at sunset times when the sun hangs low and reflects off the windscreen. It’s as if someone has come along and filtered the world autumn, and it is just the most beautiful thing. You can smell the grass, you can see the sun, and you can feel the cold, yet you’re comfortable. And it’s my favourite.

What’s your favourite season? Is it autumn too? Let me know!

love sophie