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30 Apr 2014

What's Up Wednesday

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jaime Morrow and Erin L. Funk. Perfect for readers and writers who want to share what they've been up to on a weekly basis and right now the place to share your goals.

1) What I'm Reading
Still Cress and also going through a draft to get back into the WiP and refresh my memory of it.

2) What I'm Writing
Second draft of witch project and I've also got an idea for another short story that I want to start writing up while it's still all new and shiny.  I'm using any free time to do more writing than reading and while I desperately need to get through my TBR pile it's been worth it to focus on writing more this year.

3) What Else I've Been Up To
Despite the really nice weather we've been having I haven't taken the opportunity to enjoy it.  Hopefully with bank holiday coming up it'll be nice and there's somewhere to go. 

4) What Inspires Me Right Now
 A writing course I'm taking at the moment has really inspired me, giving me the idea for a new short story involving zombies.  With 2.8 Hours Later coming up in June, I'm going to end up in a zombie film mood very shortly so that should help get into writing about zombies.

28 Apr 2014

Writing Courses

Despite already doing a creative writing at uni for part of my degree I've signed up for a free course on FutureLearn.  Surely I've learnt loads already from university? Maybe but I'm always going to end up reading books or taking part in free courses in creative writing because it's helped me in the past developing ideas and characters and I know they'll always continue to do so.

I've known people who completely refuse to learn more about writing fiction or whatever they're interested in.  That's fine because everyone has different writing styles and you want to be able to develop your own way of writing rather than trying to write like somebody else which is what it can feel like with creative writing books or courses. You feel like you have to write in a certain way or write certain things that you don't really want to.

But for me, personally, I have times where I want to learn more.  I need to know what I'm getting into.  I think if I had never studied creative writing or bought any books I probably would have been writing the same awful stories I was writing as a teenager.  And they were honestly AWFUL.  I tried copying a couple of writing styles of my favourite authors at the time but I know now in hindsight it would have never been enough to help me improve.

My creative writing course was more than telling me how to write.  We were introduced to different styles and asked to complete writing tasks using different styles but it wasn't to force a particular way of writing on us.  It was opening us up to various styles and helping us figure out what we personally enjoyed as readers and the style we were comfortable with.  I ended up enjoying studying experimental writing when I thought it was terrible at first but it turned out that it was really fun to write!

The course introduced us to different styles so when we came to creating our own projects we had inspiration and knowledge of what we wanted from our own writing.  Yes, I had to trudge through writing poetry that I really loathed doing but it only showed me that I am probably never going to write poems or feel inspired to develop my poor ability to write one.  When the time came my creative writing tutors weren't going to force me to write poems.  It was my choice.  It was up to me to look back on the writing I enjoyed doing to help me find my comfort zone, whether it was completely new or similar to a style of writing I was entertained by personally.  Everything was only a task to help you figure out what you wanted or liked to write.  None of us on the course ended up the same.  In the group I hung out with we were a mix of poets, novelists, and scriptwriters.  We varied in genres from romance to sci-fi.  We either wrote for adults or young people.

It was also amazing how inspiring the course was.  The tasks you're set can sometimes lead to that SNI or that character sketch you have to write could end up becoming your next MC.  I ended up keeping all my final year writing projects because they might have been something I want to develop in the future.  And then this year I decided to use one project because it was perfect for a writing competition.

Another bonus was when you got that positive feedback from your peers or suggestions that made that character or idea you're struggling with suddenly click into place.  Peer feedback was so important, especially when most of us wrote different genres.  By the third year we were used to getting help from each other and listening to each others ideas.  Classes stopped feeling like seminars and started to feel like a group of friends getting together and casually commenting on everyone's work, pointing out what worked, what could work, or what wasn't working. 

I'd recommend anyone to at least try out a course whether it's at uni, a writing retreat or a one-off course, free or charged.  I do think as a writer you end up having to learn something anyway, whether it's wanting to know more about your chosen genre or market.  I'd happily sign up to courses, even if I had about twenty books published.  There's always something to improve on or learn.

How do you feel about writing courses? Have you ever signed up for one? :)

23 Apr 2014

What's Up Wednesday

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jaime Morrow and Erin L. Funk. Perfect for readers and writers who want to share what they've been up to on a weekly basis and right now the place to share your goals.

1) What I'm Reading
Finished Vicious and now onto Cress by Marissa Meyer.  I love the take on Rapunzel and the character already.  I just love this series all together.  The sci-fi fits in perfectly with fairy tales and all the characters are awesome.  Can someone please make this into a film? And can someone please go back in time to fetch a younger Nathan Fillion so he can play Thorne?

2) What I'm Writing
I finished the 3rd draft for Beast Inside at 61,336 words.  I'm finished working on the story and plot, it has exactly what I wanted from it.  Now it's just to check through - grammar, voice, keeping in character etc and then I think it's time start looking for beta readers! Maybe it'll be ready for a proper query for WriteOnCon this year!

I also started working on the second draft of my witch project.  And I needed to use the last few days of the holidays to finish up a short story I want to enter for the British Fantasy Society short story competition.  Here are the details for the comp if anyone else is interested!

3) What Else I've Been Up To
Lots more maths revision, celebrating four year anniversary with Pete, getting back into the routine of work, and... I passed my driving test last Wednesday! WHEEEEEEEEE! I can't wait to drive to places! I'm already making a huge list on the places I want to visit and when my car comes we're celebrating with a trip to our favourite Fish and Chips restaurant that we usually can't get to without going with my family and pinching a ride of somebody.  But I can drive us there now! YAY! If anyone has any places to recommend visiting around the UK let me know!

4) What Inspires Me Right Now
 Vicious inspired me as I was reading it.  I started re-watching Misfits at the same time and now I want to write about superheroes! Fiction needs more superheroes!

22 Apr 2014

Book review: The Unicorn Crisis by Jon Rosenberg

Someone has summoned a Unicorn to a field south of Stratford-upon-Avon causing David Ash's day to go straight to hell. Now he has to confront shotgun wielding drug dealers, murderous strangers and psychotic fairies and all to find out who stole one of Oberon's personal pets. He better do it soon, or it will mean an all out conflict between The Fairy Court and The Hidden Academy. Worse, as back up all Ash can muster is a soap opera loving Welsh elf and an American Summoner who doesn't trust him one inch. This would be bad enough, but, as the mystery unravels, Ash forms a nagging suspicion that the heart of this problem lies in his own worst nightmare, the one he's been trying to forget for over a decade.

While I enjoyed this book at first, after reading Storm Front by Jim Butcher after it I did have a bit of a rethink.  The story was good, hooking me in and wanting to know more and find about more but then I couldn't help notice the similarities between The Unicorn Crisis and Storm Front.  In a way it could work to Rosenberg's advantage if a reader is looking for a series similar to the Dresden Files but at the same time having quite a few similar aspects doesn't make it original for me.  While I like books inspired by others I still look for the author's own twist on it.  

Both David Ash and Harry Dresden have a dodgy past where their supernatural actions could have got them arrested and killedThey both have a strong relationship with a cheeky otherwordly being: Llewellyn the elf for David and Bob the spirit in a skull.  They both work closely with a female on their separate mysteries to solve.  Sometimes you need to change things round a little bit to make it different but nevertheless I read the whole book, drawn in to this world of Summoners where all your famous myths and legends such as Oberon, Gods and Goddesses, unicorns are true and come from another world.  Summoners have the power to bring these creatures to our world and send them straight back and that's where our mystery lies for David Ash.  A unicorn has been brought into our world and it looks like the unknowing Summoner might simply be a pawn in something much bigger and dangerous, that has our magical MC facing the demons of his past.  I can be a sucker for magic and crime going together so I wasn't disappointed.

I think the strongest aspect was the humour.  Rosenberg gladly brought in the famous, mischievous Puck who was borderline psychotic but lived up to his cheeky reputation by creating more problems for Ash, at one point deciding to redecorate his entire house.  A constant nuisance that brought some light comedy to contrast against the dangers in the plot.