the cat’s out the bag

I got a job. A big-girl, I-have-a-key-card, I-bought-new-tights kind of job.

The only down side being that to enter the office building I have to walk through a revolving door which I’ve so far failed doing at least six times. It wouldn’t sound bad if I’d been working there longer than eight days.

The job’s in Sheffield so I’m now living with Meg (just imagine lots of late night films, constant cups of tea, and Camembert and prosecco on tap). I’m absolutely loving it so far, but it’s been quite an adjustment. Within a couple of weeks I’d finished my MA, got a job, and moved house/city. Wonderfully mad and terrifying at the same time.

I’m currently in the process of compiling an 0114 bucket list of things to do whilst I’m living here, so any ideas are most welcome (hidden gems are always good). Having The Peak District on the doorstep is amazing, and I’m going to do my best to make the most of it (and my weekends) and explore as much as possible, both on bike and by foot.

It’s all very odd, and I’m still settling into it all, but it’s all very fun and new and the idea of having a proper-job pay cheque every month is all levels of exciting (I’m trying my best to keep it all saved up and unspent but we’ll see how well that goes…)

The best thing so far, however (other than Meg-sized cocktails) is the other two roomies I’ve gained: Simon and Dylan (Simon modelling in my cover photo above.)

Now, I’m not a cat person, and have never really ever been a cat person, but these two are the least catty cats in the world. They will happily come and sit on you (or on any surface warm and comfy) and Simon is partial to the left side of my bed, even though he knows that’s my favourite spot. They’re greedy things though, so you’re often welcomed home after work to the sound of them meowing.

I’m headed back home home for Christmas, which will be lovely, but I have a feeling I’ll miss the constant cat company (and Meg, obviously). I’m sure they’ll be meowing for food when I return, though!

I hope you all have lovely Christmases, wherever you’re spending it (with/without greedy fur friends.)

love sophie

soundtrack series: september

The final month of my Masters is finished. My novel has been handed in. I am free (aka officially an adult). Here are my five favourite songs from the novel writing process. They got me, and my characters, through a lot of uncertainty, and inspired me in many ways. I owe them a beer (or several).

1. MIKA

Another Kilimanjaro reunion means another throwback artist. This time, one of those classics you just can’t forget. Mika came into full force in the car, with singalongs on the regular. What’s a car journey without some Lebanese love? Firm faves have to be Stardust, Live Your Life, Blue Eyes and Origin Of Love. But they’re all good.

2. George Ezra

A popular one on the soundtrack series this year, and popping up all over the place. One of my favourites, Hold My Girl, was on repeat a lot whilst I was writing the majority of the last half of the book.

3. The Coral

One of those controversial choices, The Coral are fab, and In The Morning was a song that would get me feeling motivated to get up and write (don’t ask me why – the lyrics tell a completely different story entirely!)

4. Fleetwood Mac

Absolute Legends. What more can I say? Dreams, Everywhere, The Chain, Landslide, Go Your Own Way… there are too many good songs to shout about. They were a constant background noise to my keyboard tapping, and I thoroughly enjoyed their company.

5. Birdy

The girl who started it all. I don’t think I would have got through the whole book if it hadn’t been for the beautiful music Birdy creates. Skinny Love was the first song I ever began writing to, and it will always be a firm fave. But there are many more that have made a name for themselves within my novel. What a babe.

What have you been listening to this month?

love sophie

soundtrack series: august

It’s been a crappy series of weeks, and I’m using music as an outlet more than ever. The writing is officially on hold whilst I try to get as back to normal as possible. Here are some of the songs that have helped me out:

1. Tee Shirt – Birdy

One of those songs I could listen to on repeat all day. Gorgeous guitar tangled around beautiful harmonies.

2. Higher Love – James Vincent-McMorrow

Up there with Birdy as one of my acoustic favourites. He is just captivating. I’ve seen him live and his performances are so personal and emotive, it’s hard not to love. This song is my favourite of his, although I like We Don’t Eat, too.

3. Tyrone Wells – You Make My Dreams Come True

One of my favourite covers. I love this song, and its upbeat quality. But this cover focuses in on the lyrics and it is simply wonderful.

4. Beautiful Birds – Passenger feat. Birdy

Two gorgeous voices in an acoustic gem of a song. What a treat. Something I could listen to all day. Harmonies galore, and simple piano to let the lyrics speak for themselves.

5. Silhouette – Aquilo

A stunning song. I have a love of simple lyrics paired with simple piano. This song is one you need to hear, so if you haven’t listened yet, do it. You won’t regret it. It gives me goosebumps.

 

What have you been listening to this month? Let me know!

love sophie

soundtrack series: july

And another month has flown, and this time it’s been a tough one. Instead of the upbeat and happy clappy songs I’m usually listening to, this month has been a more sombre soundtrack after some sad news. I’m sure you’ll still love them.

1. Place We Were Made – Maisie Peters

One of those beautiful, reflective songs which makes you think about your childhood. A gorgeous, believable vocal and some beautiful guitar.

2. Wildfire – Seafret

One of those voices that you could listen to all day. I love the folk-y side to this song, and that it’s still a bit upbeat with the addition of percussion. Those lyrics though, are just something.

3. I Try – Jasmine Thompson

A gorgeous version of a popular song. Very tranquil, very emotional, very beautiful.

4. Joshua Radin – You Got What I Need

One of my favourite staples for a quiet playlist, for those downpours and dark days. Joshua Radin has the most relaxing voice. Winter is another favourite of his.

5. Let It All Go – Birdy and RHODES

One of, if not, my favourite Birdy songs. It’s lyrics are so personal and telling and the eerie music, and simple piano is truly gorgeous. I love Birdy, and she will always be a writing soundtrack, but this song is one that I could listen to forever and ever.

 

What songs help you when you’re struggling? Let me know!

love sophie

soundtrack series: may

Birthday month = banging tunes for a whole 31 days, so I made the most of it, testing out my birthday playlist (and questionable dance moves) before my party. Here are five birthday staples that should be on everyone’s party playlists.

1. ABBA

Old and Gold. With the second film on it’s way to us, what better time to rekindle your love for the Swedish quad? They never fail to get me dancing, and I know all of the words to most of their songs (I’m not joking.) They’re a party staple, and if you notice someone struggling to let loose and boogie, one play of Dancing Queen will see them to their feet in no time.

2. The Supremes

There’s a theme here, but old and gold is the way to go with party music. Everyone knows it, and it’s good to dance to. What more could you ask for? You Can’t Hurry Love is a personal fave, and goes down nicely with a cocktail (or two!)

3. Bruce Springsteen

The Boss is back. I seem to have inherited my love of Bruce from my mum, his biggest fan so I’m told, but I am partial to a bit of Born To Run, or Mary’s Place (a song I presumed until I was old enough was named after my Grandma.) I also adore Dancing In The Dark acoustic which is simply gorgeous (and helps ease the headache the next day.)

4. Courteeners

Not Nineteen Forever is one of my favourite Indie hits and I love it. I was first introduced to it by my brother the week before I turned nineteen and since then I’ve learnt the words and added it to my frequently played. It’s a gem, and a good reminder to get out and do things because you definitely aren’t nineteen forever. (I wish.)

5. The Black Keys

One of my favourite artists, unknown to many, are The Black Keys. Lonely Boy and Gold On The Ceiling are two of the greats, which punctuate most get together’s and parties I have. If you haven’t met the sound yet, go listen. It’s loud and proud but it’s so worth it.

 

What would you add to your own party playlist? Let me know!

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

 

 

soundtrack series: april

I’m home for Easter and stewing over yet more deadlines which are looming. They seem to be never ending, but I also got to go to Italy for a week on rugby tour, so not all is bad. With a 28 hour coach journey each way, there was lots of chance for music in my ears. Here are my top five.

1. Party In The USA – Miley Cyrus

It wouldn’t be rugby tour without our club song, would it? This one, although an oldie, is absolute gold. We all know the words, and can sing it on demand at the drop of a hat (much to other people on the ferries frustration.) It’s sung at most home/away games, in changing rooms, and on fun buses, and it wouldn’t have been tour without it.

2. Wannabe – The Spice Girls

Another classic that doesn’t stray far from my music library. I love this song because I know all the words and can perform the rap if I’m feeling happy. It’s a trip down memory lane and I love that when the song comes on, everyone knows it and sings along.

3. JoJo – Leave (Get Out)

We’re on a throwback theme here, and I am loving it. JoJo is a firm fave in my playlist at the moment and I love Leave and Too Little Too Late, which are both so sassy. Independent women singing about being independent women is rather empowering.

4. Dolly Parton – Jolene

My county bumkin babe is back, firmly where she belongs and on repeat. This song is amazing, and if it comes on in a club, or when I’m out, it makes my night. I love country music, and this upbeat version which is a great singalong is great for getting me in the mood for a boogie.

5. Rusted Root – Send Me On My Way

One of my favourite songs since I climbed Mt Kilimanjaro back in September 2015. One of my fellow trekkers included it on his montage video and I’ve sung it hundreds of times since. The recent reunion is obviously still on my brain as this song has been stuck on loop in my brain for the past week. At least it’s a good’un!

 

What have you been listening to this month?

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

i canuary

I had one of those ‘head in hands’ moments this week.

It’s January, which means I’m tired, broke, deadlines are looming, and all I want to do is eat the treats I got for Christmas (those that made it this far…) and snuggle up in bed with an extra large cup of tea.

But, I’ve got a Masters to finish, and a novel which needs editing.

My mind is also away with the fairies so I’ve been trying some different ways to get my mind back on track to what I’m actually supposed to be doing… and telling myself that I’ve got this. Because sometimes life is just a little bit overwhelming.

Anyone who knows me will know I’m a list queen. I like everything written out (a million times) so that I can see it and know what I have to do and when I need to do it. So, in the amongst the essay writing, I made a couple of lists to lull me out of my stress-head state. And, although some of them got my mind wandering off piste, (I am also the queen of procrastination) I was able to get on with my reading and managed to make lots of notes which I am going to magic up into the essay.

Here are a few examples of lists I’ve made when I’ve been super stressed…

  • Blog post ideas (because blogging counts as productive procrastination)
  • Best bits of the year (this could be what you enjoyed most about last year or what you’re looking forward to this year)
  • Bucket List (of places I want to go to/things I want to see etc.)
  • Book list (books I want to read this month/year)
  • Inspiration List (people/things/ideas that inspire me – Pinterest is great for this)
  • What I’m grateful for (a nice way of reflecting on something you already have)
  • My five year plan (enough to scare anyone back into an essay)
  • A shopping list (of things I can’t actually afford)
  • Meal plan for the week (especially good for anyone doing veganuary etc.)
  • Words of wisdom (for when life really does get tough)
  • Songs to listen to (usually whilst writing/working)
  • My to do list (always include a couple of things you’ve already done and tick them off so you don’t stress out even more)

So they are all just ideas which have helped me to get my mind back. Sometimes when I’m stressed I get so wound up with myself that if I don’t take five minutes out I want to give up.

These lists are a good way of bringing you back from stress island and hopefully will help you as much as they’ve helped me.

(They’re nice things to do anyway if you get the chance. It’s often quite nice to just reflect on what you’ve done/are going to do.)

Let me know what you think!

love sophie