What I learnt from NaNoWriMo

NanoWriMo has finally ended!!

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Alright so it actually ended about a week ago, but I have spent that week catching up on sleep and just getting used to the fact that I actually managed to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I WON! As proud as I am that I managed to do such a feat, it also taught me a few valuable lessons.

1. Writing is not an easy job

Writing every day is, as I always thought, a relatively easy task. I did what every good Planner would have done and I had a set time line of how I wanted my story to go. But no matter how much I planned, sometimes the words just would not come. For the most part, I was just writing whatever came into my head and normally this had no story, no relevance and absolutely no sense to it whatsoever. At first, this made me mad: Why was this so hard when I knew exactly what I wanted to write about? Why could I suddenly not string words together? But after a few days of this, I just decided not to bother: Clearly the words will not come today so why force it. And then suddenly, as if out of spite, the words would not stop coming. I would be sat at work and the slightest phrase would appear in an email or in a conversation and I would suddenly be hit with inspiration.

Point is, when you stop trying to force the words, they come to you in a wave that can not be tamed, and all you can do is roll with whatever is being thrown at you throughout your wiring day

2. Planning is usually pointless

As mentioned before, sometimes the words will only come to you when you don’t want them to. The same can be said about the characters. In many cases, as much as I wanted to take my characters on one journey, as I wrote and the story began to unfold, my characters started to take me in a different direction. Again, at first I fought this, as I knew what I wanted to write about and I knew what I wanted my story to say. But as I wrote, my characters were constantly fighting me to take a different path and, finally, I let them. What followed was usually completely different to what I had planned, but it also allowed me to follow my characters naturally progression in the story and made them even more real than beforehand. For example, what had started as an innocent meeting between two of my characters, soon turned into a powerful love story that began to question where my story had originally planned.

My main message here is that when writing, let your characters take charge sometimes. Just let the words flow and see where your characters take you. As your characters begin to develop into true and real identities, they will undoubtedly behave in ways that you hadn’t thought was possible and you hadn’t ever considered. When this happens, follow them. Even if you go back and delete everything that you had written, you have explored a new avenue and learnt more about who your characters are and how they can help the story along in a new manner.

3. It doesn’t matter if you finish, just as long as you start

On the days when the story was disheveled and the characters were misbehaving and everything was going wrong, it started to become more of a chore to finish. As much as I wanted to ‘win’ NaNo, I also didn’t want to finish on something that was not true to what I had wanted to write. So I let go. I let the story go as it pleased, let me characters do as they wished, and most of the time I would end up with about 3000 words in one day about a scene I had never had any intention of writing. And with NaNo, it doesn’t matter if you do not get to 50,000 words and it doesn’t really matter if what you write is complete and utter drivel, but as long as you get words onto paper then you at least have a chance. And whether it is 5 words or 500 words, you are still in a better position than you were when you first started. And sometimes, that’s all that matters in that day.

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Must haves for NaNoWriMo

With NaNoWriMo starting on Wednesday, I thought I would compile a list of Must Have Items for NaNoWriMo. As this is my first attempt, I have done a lot of research as to how people make it through each day, progressing their story and, hopefully, winning NaNoWriMo.

1. Routine

The main thing people seem to swear by is a dedicated Writing Time. Once November 1st hits, allocate a certain amount of time everyday to writing and try and make it the same everyday. For me, I will most likely do all of my writing once I get home…perhaps while I wait for dinner to cook…from 7-9ish. My mornings are mine to get gym out of the way, watch my YouTube, catch up on Netflix, do online shopping. But my evenings will be for writing and developing my story as the month progresses on. Try and set aside a dedicated writing time with no distractions from your story.

2. Set yourself challenges

Most people set themselves little personal challenges. These can be as simple as certain word counts at certain points in the calendar: 10,000 every week, 25,000 by the 15th November, you get the idea. Many of the social groups and forums also recommended a ‘Double Up Day’ where you try to double your word count in one day of writing. These little challenges will help you stay motivated, as you are not always doing the same old writing day every day for a month. It can also give you a new sense of accomplishment, knowing that you take your writing to a new level.

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3. Rewards

No matter how dedicated you are to your story, as with any project there needs to be some sort of reward scheme in place for you to continue through. It can be hard to work solidly on one thing for a long amount of time with no break, and soon you’ll view it as nothing more than a chore that you have to do rather than a project you want to do. Maybe every time you reach a target (see above) you allow yourself to watch one episode of your favourite TV show, or a YouTube video. If you’ve managed to do a Double Up Day, then you are allowed the following day off…or at least only have to write half of your daily target.

4. Back up devices

No matter how you are writing your story (while most people do it on a computer, but some are choosing to do it by hand) make you have a back up system in place. If using a computer BACK YOUR STUFF UP. Even if you just email yourself a copy of the document at the end of everyday just n case, have something in place so you have more than one copy of your work. If you are writing by hand, maybe take pictures every time you finish a page of your notebook so you know where you have gotten in your story in case you lose the notebook or spill a drink on it. It is best to be too careful than to be left, after 30,000 of your story, with nothing to show for it thanks to a computer glitch or a spilt drink across your notebook.

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5. Pen and paper

If you are working with a computer, never underestimate the use of pen and paper. If you are a Pantser, making it up as you go along and just seeing where the story takes you, it can be helpful to just have a list on the go of places that you’ve created, characters that have appeared, names you like the sound of that you may want to incorporate, main plot points that have happened or you would like to happen. This is almost a midway point between a Pantser and a Planner, which allows you to let your imagination to run wild and dictate your story, while sill allowing you to keep a record of the key points just in case you need to refer back.

Any other tips you have? Let me know in the comments…I need all the help i can get!!

T xx

NaNoWriMo 2017 and Preptober

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and is a non-profit organisation that wants to encourage people to write a novel. You have the entire month of November to write 50,000 words…so I thought I’d give it a try.

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I have always loved writing but I will admit that it has been quite a while since I wrote anything fiction. The closest I get to writing these days is this blog, and let’s be fair I’ve been pretty sporadic with my posts lately. I think it’s because work is always so busy and life itself is just so hectic it can sometimes be hard to motivate yourself to do these little creative projects. So I have gone into NaNoWriMo as a complete newbie. Fresh meat. Or…fresh Tofu as I should say!

When it comes to writing for NaNoWriMo there are two types of people: Pantsers and Planners. Planners are those writers who have an entire scene by scene set up for the start of November, who know exactly how their story is going to go and how it is going to end. Pantsers on the other hand are writers who have nothing but a few ideas and their imagination to guide them once November 1st hits. Now I have always been a bit of a Pantser when it comes to my writing: I would write because I felt inspired in that moment to write a story, and can not remember the last time I actually FINISHED a story. So I have decided to become a Planner for the first time in forever…I have a notebook and everything! I even went so far as to colour code my story by main character perspective. How shmancy am I?!

The main reason I wanted to write about this is to let you guys know why I may be a bit quiet for a while in November. But also, and probably most importantly, I wanted to let all of you who read this know about NaNoWriMo. It doesn’t cost anything and if nothing else it should be a load of fun to just write a novel. Set yourself the challenge and finish that novel you always thought about writing. I have also seen just how social it makes people: Every area has it’s own ‘territory’ of writers and they run Write Ins and Plan Days throughout November, where writers of all backgrounds and walks of life can get together and just talk about writing…get some feedback, share ideas and just enjoy being creative with like-minded people…just for fun!

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While there are no real prizes at the end of the month, you will leave the process with at least two things: A brand new novel (or at least the start of a new one) and maybe even a new found love for writing in general. In this day and age, when there is so much bad stuff in the news and in our minds, I want to use NaNoWriMo as a way of showing everyone that there can always be joy in a good book…especially one that your wrote yourself and could even lead to inspiring others to write their own too!

So what do you say? See you at a Write In soon! ❤

T xx

The little things in life

Every day at work, at around 12.30pm, one of the council street cleaners will do her round outside of my office where I currently work. She pushes her cart, sweeps up old cigarette butts and crisp packets, before taking a 5 minute breather on the park bench. At around 12.45pm, the man I can only assume is her husband comes strolling out from one of the side streets with the tiniest and most excited pug puppy I have ever seen. The pug pulls his owner over to the lady, who meets him with almost equal excitement, and they have a little walk around the green patch of scenery close by, sit down, and have a little lunch break together.

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I have watched them enough times while I am waiting for my documents to print or for certain files to finish copying, that I have their routine down. I am very much a people watcher – leave me at a little coffee shop with a massive mug of tea, my book and a nice window seat and I could happily spend my day there watching the many passers by go about their business. It is one of my little pleasures in life, and one I wish I could do more. Plus, I genuinely believe that a proper cup of tea can cure all ailments…so that always helps!

The last couple of months have been pretty stressful for me for a whole array of reasons and while I sat watching the little pug bounce happily around his owners’ boots, I began wondering if it would ever be possible to be as happy as that little doggo. I feel that this is something that has been left off of the curriculum at schools: How to be happy. More importantly, how to be happy wherever you may be in life. Yes I may be 25, and as far as society is concerned I am a fully functioning adult that should be more than capable of looking after myself. In reality, I am not…or at least I don’t feel like an adult. I still live at home with my parents, I’m still on their car insurance and I have only very recently finished my education and managed to get my foot onto the career ladder of my choice. All the while I have my peers – or worse, the younger generation – working in high flying jobs for better pay, with their own mortgages and living the life that I at 16 thought I should be living at 25.

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However, every now and again I am reminded that life is short: With all the horrible things going on in this world from terrorist attacks, mass shootings and the threat of nuclear war, I am reminded that time is fleeting. My first 25 years have flown by and I already feel like I wasted so much of it worrying about things that did not even deserve a minute of my attention. Who cares if my hair is getting frizzy? Why do I care if I look tired or have bags under my eyes? Last night I stayed up until midnight (for the first time in months may I add) and watched a movie with my Dad, eating biscuits and candy and laughing about the events of Geordie Shore. Was I tired the next day? Ashamedly so. Did I regret my choice? Hell no. The little things in life, as cliche as it sounds, really will become the most important things.

So this is my message to you, lovely few of you who will read this, or stumble across it late at night by accident: Enjoy the little things. So what if your thighs are a little bit thick?! Revel in the fact that your legs are strong enough to carry you wherever you need to go. So what if your hair is super untame and won’t style right? When you’re 80 with thinning grey hair you will long for the wild locks of your youth. Ignore the negativity that other people will try to force on you because at the end of the day, the only person you need to impress is you. You are the only person you will have to live with every second of every day for the rest of your life, so you might as well learn how to love the little things that make you special.

Let me know what makes you guys grateful. What little everyday things make your day infinitely better?

Jaws: Book vs Film

I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say that Jaws was a damn good movie. I saw it for the first time when I was about ten and I don’t think I took another bath ever again: Literally any body of water that I could submerge myself in was a no-go for fear of shark attack. I was ten…leave me alone. Recently in a little charity store I found the book of Jaws by Peter Benchley, and I have noticed quite some stark differences in them both.

SPOILER ALERT IN PLACE.…if you have not seen Jaws, or wish to read the book, do not read further!

1. The people

In the book, the most appealing character of the whole story is the shark. The people of Amity are seriously xenophobic: Anyone that is not from Amity is simply there for money-making. The whole town relies on the summer tourists visiting the town and the beach so much that everyone there has to struggle through the winter to afford to stay in a relatively expensive seaside town. The houses are all rented out to summer folk, businesses hike up prices, and the main beach is opened to attract everyone even though there’s a man-eating shark around. The town is also pretty corrupt: There is only one journalist who runs the local newspaper, and he is best friends with the chief of police and the Mayor. The Mayor is also funded, it turns out, by some New York mobsters before they invested so much

Even the main characters are pretty nasty people. In the film, the main characters are pretty likeable: Brody is your run-of-the-mill chief of police, keen on public safety and a loving relationship with his happy wife and happy children. In the book, he is blunt, old fashioned and, most of the time, drunk. His wife, Ellen, is bitter, yearning for her younger years of rich friends and socialite lifestyle. Hooper is a cocky and womanising young man, who’s arrogance is almost as high as his IQ. The only character is somewhat endearing in his unlike-ability is Quint, the aged shark hunter, and only because he makes no apologies for who he is: He knows he’s a bit of work, but owns it.

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2. The affair

One of the main things that the film doesn’t cover is the affair between Hooper and Ellen Brody. Having known each other as upper class children, Ellen begins to fantasise about having a fling with Hooper. He is everything that she feels she left behind when she chose to marry Brody and live in Amity: rich lifestyle, fancy dinners, big social events, and a high profile name. Hooper doesn’t say no, but throughout the book Hooper is simply your generic rich-kid: He is used to not being told what to do and so very rarely will do what is needed. He and Ellen, while it only lasts for one night, go about their affair with blatant disregard for Brody. But at the same time, Brody is such a detached husband you almost can’t really blame Ellen for wanting someone more attentive. In the end, the very brief fling makes Ellen realise how lucky she is to have Brody and how much she does love him. Plus…well it’s not like the affair could continue…

3. The deaths

While the film hit most of the key deaths – the opening scene is quite possibly iconic in the horror world – the book has a few extra ‘deaths’ that the film played on slightly. In the book, the only deaths that are really talked about are, obviously, the very first attack on Christine Watkins and then the death of little Alexander Kintner. Every other death is only simply guessed upon: When Ben Gardener fails to communicate with base while he is out on his boat, people assume he has been eaten. The fact that no body is ever found also convinces everyone that he has been eaten by the huge shark. In the film, the floating severed head coming out of the boat sort of confirms that he is absolutely shark-meat, but the book seems to try and high light how paranoid the little town is becoming. Furthermore, even when the main characters die – Hooper is actually bitten in half by the shark when he is in the shark cage, and Quint is dragged under the water and drowned when his foot gets tangled up in a harpoon rope – you don’t really acre that they’ve died. If anything, I was almost proud of the shark for ending the lives of such horrible characters.

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4. The shark itself

The book did a wonderful job of making the shark seem like the innocent victim in the situation. He is just a fish, surprisingly clever for a ‘mindless predator’, who is simply just trying to have some dinner and survive. The attitudes in the book highlight just how old the book really is: Written in 1974 the book plays hugely off of the general scariness of sharks. In modern day, and most likely due to the huge success of the film, more and more people are realising that sharks are not mindless killers, that they have intricate and complicated lives that we are still learning about to this days. The solitary lifestyle is something that the book plays on, making it seem that this fish has picked this little town to terrorise. In reality, sharks very rarely attack people, and of these attacks few are ever fatal. When it comes to sharks it is having respect for the sharks home: Don’t swim near seals, if attacked/if a shark gets to close punch it on the nose, or stay close to shore within sights of a life guard. The book (and to some extent the film) is very old fashioned in its view that sharks are nothing but viscous predators, but to some extent that’s what made this book so enjoyable to read.

Final thoughts?

The book is a great read: Story aside Peter Benchley writes in such a way that you can not put the book down. Even just reading about a dinner party he can create tension so thick that you need to keep reading to find out what horrible thing happens. The book constantly puts the reader on edge and has you reading way into the early hours of the morning because you just can’t tear yourself away from it. The film is also excellent: I don’t think I would have researched sharks as much as I have done over the years if not for this film scaring the absolute pants off me when I was 10. Both do an excellent job of telling the same story, but simply with different end goals in mind: The film wants you to cheer for Amity, while the book wants you to cheer for the shark.

Which version did you guys prefer? Let me know in the comments below and follow me for more comparisons! 

T xx

Top 5 Books of all time

I have always been a keen reader: According to my Mom I threw a huge tantrum after my first day of nursery venues they hadn’t taught me how to read and that’s the only reason I went to school to begin with. Books for me have always been an outlet and a place to lose myself in different worlds and different stories. So I thought today I would share a list of my favourite books with you guys!

1. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

This book was one of the first books I remember reading by myself. Granted I think at the time it took me about 4 months to finish but I could happily sit down and read it cover to cover in one day if I was left alone. It is just lovely! The book tells the story of a little horse and the life he leads: We join him as soon as he is born on a little farm with his mother, and follow him as he goes from house to house, owner to owner, job to job. Not every owner is nice and not every job is kind to him, but he approaches it in such an innocent way that you can’t help but share his optimism. This book definitely helped shape me as the animal loving vegan I am today, as I finally got to read a book that was from an animal’s perspective rather than as a simple side character. This book is charming, emotive and sincere and for that reason, I will always love this book more than any other.

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2. The curious case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde by R. L. Stevenson

This book is terrifying. At least, I found it so! However it is not truly scary until the end of the book where we hear Doctor Jekyll’s account of everything that has happened throughout the book. The book itself is told from the perspective of one of Jekyll’s closest friends, a lawyer named Utterson, who notices that his highly moral and just friend has begun to associate with the corrupt and evil Mr Hyde. Having never read this book before this year, I had no idea what the story really was: I understood the general concept of a man having two personalities but this book takes that a step further, in that Jekyll and Hyde are two separate people. I won’t give away any spoilers (at least none that aren’t already common knowledge) but this book was more like a mystery horror than the psychological horror that pop culture would have us believe it is. It is haunting, yet charming, in the way only Stevenson can pull off. It is one of the few books that when I finished, I just say there in shocked silence for a minute or two and tried to comprehend what I had just read. If you are someone who fancies a bit of an existential crisis, then this is definitely the book for you.

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3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K Rowling

As with every other twenty-something, I love Harry Potter. I was brought up on the books and grew up with the films (I believe I was about 9 or 10 when the first one was released) so Harry Potter will always hold a very special place in my heart. But the third book was by far my favourite: I liked that it focused on the wizarding world before Harry. I liked learning about the Marauders: Mooney, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs and the entire friendship as a whole. I believe that this was something that was somewhat glanced over in the film as it helps you believe why (spoiler alert!) Wormtail’s betrayal to join Voldemort all the more heart-breaking for not only Harry, but for the remaining Maurauders as well. It was a welcome change to hear about the wizarding world at a time different to Harry’s world, and I believe this book cemented the importance of friendship on a deeper level than simply ‘Harry, Ron and Hermione = best friends for life’. I won’t go into too much detail about the Harry Potter universe (trust me, I could for days!) but recommend this book, even if you haven’t read the books at all.

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4. Dante’s Divine Comedy

Ok so this is a pretty pretentious entry I know, but stick with me! I was recommended this book by my high school English teacher, Mr Ingles, as he said it was the inspiration for so many modern day classics. So, with a summer free before university started, I decided to give it a read. My word, it is beautiful! I don’t mean that in the sense that the story is beautiful (Not going to lie, I’m still not 100% certain what the entire story really is) but rather that the words, the way they flow and the way they create an image is beautiful. This is essentially a very very VERY long poem telling the story of one man’s journey through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven in order to get to heaven and meet God. I will not go into the imagery and religious meaning of it all, but just as a piece of writing it is honestly the prettiest piece of writing I have read so far. The words are almost effortlessly lovely and when I read this I am instantly calmed and transported on this journey. I won’t lie to you, it is HEAVY reading…like seriously heavy reading with a lot of words and a lot of different styles, but it is worth it just to read a page at a time. I found it to be like Shakespeare, in that if you just let the words flow over you, you can eventually form a picture of what is happening and what it all means. If you are at all interested in English literature or even if you just fancy something pretty to read, I would highly recommend this!

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5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

As you can tell I am a sucker for the classics, but they are normally referred to as classics for a reason. This story, as I’m sure you are aware, is a pretty tragic one. The book is written from the point of view of Nick Carrow, Gatsby’s accidental neighbour, and describes Gatsby’s (somewhat worrying) obsession with the dim but lovely Daisy Buchanon. I won’t go into details, but if you saw the Leonardo DiCaprio film from 2013 you already know how it goes. This book is an insight into the entire 1920’s era, and probably acts as a bigger warning for the American Dream than Mice and Men ever did. There are moments when you are not sure who is the ‘bad guy’ in the story, as every character has aspects of themselves that we in today’s society would most likely frown upon. It is at times charming and funny, while at others it is harrowing and disturbing. Personally, I love this book and I love Fitzgerald. I especially love this book because I feel that it is always relevant: there will always be someone wanting to obtain the life of others. It is human nature to chase the dream that you have only seen glimpses of from afar, and I believe this books acts as a cautionary tale as to what happens once you have your first invite inside.

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What books hold a special place in your life? Let me know and I will most likely add it to my list of books to read!

T xx