Friday, 14 January 2022

Writing My Novel: The Real Second Draft

So, I wrote a first draft in 2015. Then, in 2016, I started and then abandoned a second draft. In 2017 and 2018 and every year since there have been short stories. Oh, so many short stories. There were also novel outlines. Oh, so many novel outlines. All for the same novel.

Now, we're in 2022 (even typing that makes me feel a little sick. Anyone else?) and finally, there is a second draft!

I started writing my New and Improved Second Draft in September 2019. There had been a few attempts before that but none of them took. In September 2019 though, I was ready. I wrote consistently, if not every single day, for about a month, and in that time wrote over 43,000 words. I felt pretty good about it. I really thought I would finish that draft before the end of the year.

Then, in October 2019, my laptop's battery died. After a stressful few days of third party batteries causing the laptop to shut down suddenly and at random (making writing on it into some kind of extreme sport that I was not brave enough to attempt) I accepted defeat and left my very old, very beloved laptop at an Apple store for a week.

An enforced break for a couple of weeks right in the middle of the draft. My momentum was knocked but I figured I'd recover it soon enough.

Then, I started getting gallbladder pains. I ended up in hospital, then on a diet that left me constantly weak, dizzy, and bad tempered for months on top of the pain, until finally, I had the keyhole surgery to remove my gallbladder, just in time. A few hours after my surgery, the UK government announced that all non-essential surgery would be cancelled to help hospitals cope with the rapidly intensifying COVID-19 pandemic.

I'll skip the next year of anxiety. Come to summer 2021. Nearly two years after I started this second draft, I finally felt ready to read through those 43,000 words again and try to finish the rest of the story.

I hadn't really written anything in a few months. I'm not very good at handling stress and thanks to, you know, everything, there had been a lot more of it to handle than I was used to. Perhaps that's why I suddenly found myself unable to write.

I would sit at my keyboard and stare at the page. Sometimes, I would manage to force out a sentence or two, but it felt like wading through half-set concrete. I've struggled with writing before, but it had never felt this physically difficult for so long. For weeks, I tried, getting more and more frustrated. Finally, in desperation, I grabbed a pen and a notebook.

Obviously, I've written in notebooks before, but I've always been primarily a keyboard writer, which was what made this block so unsettling. I managed to get a hundred or so words a day down in my notebook, adding them all to the Scrivener document every few days. I hated the slowness of this method but told myself again and again that a few, slow words are better than none all. Then, one day, after I had typed up the words from my notebook, I kept typing. The next day, I opened the Scrivener file and started typing without writing anything in the notebook first.

I finished my second draft in November 2021. It is 90,380 words long. It is still not very good.

This draft, it turns out, is not what I want this novel to be, but I wouldn't have known that if I hadn't finished it. Sure, it would have been nice to get to this place a little sooner, but there we are. The important thing is that now I know what I don't want this story to be, it should be a little easier to figure out what I do want it to be. Plus, writers are always saying it's important to finish things, and I certainly felt relieved when I finally finished this thing!

Now I just have to make sure I don't take an unexpected year and a half break in the middle of the next draft.

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Last Night at the Christmas Market

If Melissa had to listen to this choir sing Wonderful Christmastime once more, she was going to start jamming gingerbread into her own ears. 
    The bells started again. Melissa tensed, waiting for the choir to sing, but she already knew what it would be. What it always was. 
    She groaned. 'Don't they know any other songs?' Melissa eyed up the gingerbread sausage dogs in front of her, with their jaunty icing scarves. She could probably fit one of those in each ear.

This is just a quick post today to let you know that I have a brand new short story in the newest issue of PaperBound magazine! PaperBound is an online magazine for younger readers (and the young at heart) and I'm so excited that they've chosen to include Last Night at the Christmas Market in their very first winter issue!

Last Night at the Christmas Market is a short YA story about a girl called Melissa, who has lost some of her Christmas cheer selling gingerbread at a Christmas market, and Nick, the cute boy at a neighbouring hot chocolate stall who, during a minor disaster on the market's last night of the season, might help her get some of it back. Basically, it's a bitesize, gingerbread flavour, Christmas romcom!

I had so much fun writing Last Night at the Christmas Market and I'm thrilled it's been included in this issue of PaperBound, which you can download and read for free on their website, right now!

I hope you enjoy reading it even half as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Thursday, 26 November 2020

An Experiment

A while ago, my mum found her old Olympus AF-10 point and shoot camera in a drawer in her office and asked if I wanted it. Obviously, I did. I'll have any camera someone offers me. This one though, also had a roll of film in it that had been half shot and left there for no one knew how long. We had no idea what might be on the film or if it would even come out after so many years, but I decided to find out. I finished the roll off and took it to be developed, with the full expectation that I might end up with nothing to show for this experiment.

But I didn't end up with nothing! 

What I ended up with was a slightly psychedelic set of photos I actually took on a school trip when I was probably around 13. I remember the trip in question (I think it was for geography) but I have no idea where the trip was to and neither of my parents remember either. If you recognise this unidentified beach, please let me know!

I also ended up with a few not-so-bad pictures of Bodmin Moor from earlier this year. 

One film, two sets of photos, ~15 years apart. All in all, a successful experiment!

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

A Roll of Film

It turns out that any random old film you've had rolling around in a desk drawer for the past ten years is maybe not the best film you could be using?? Who could have guessed?! Either way, I do still have a few rolls kicking around so we're just going to have to make the most of it! Even if I did realise while editing these images from a roll I had developed earlier this year that this particular film is pulling VERY green, especially in low light. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing. It's all just part of the unpredictability of shooting film, isn't it?

Although, I wouldn't mind a little bit more predictability, so if you shoot 35mm, please tell me your colour film recommendations! Because once I've used up all this Agfa pro 200 I got with a lomo camera when I was a teenager, I will probably be looking for something a little less expired.

In the mean time, here are some photos!

Monday, 17 February 2020


I have some more photos for you today, from three different places: two that hum with the ancient history of Cornwall, with structures and landscapes that have stood since before anyone alive now can remember, and one that was made from nothing by human hands, not that long ago, and filled with things that would never have grown here on their own, which is a magic all of its own.

This stretch of Bodmin Moor, near the village of Minions, is one of my favourite places in the whole of Cornwall. The landscape is full of reminders of the area's mining past, and even bronze age stone structures, but the land seems to belong again now to the livestock who graze there, and personally, I find the sound of baaing sheep to be a perfect accompaniment to exploring old engine houses. 

These photos do not do Boscastle justice. It's a beautiful little fishing port but more importantly, it is home to the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures from the museum, but I highly recommend it as a day out. Tickets are just £5 for adults and the building is stuffed full of hundreds of weird artefacts, supposedly with magical pasts. It's worth the £5 just for the cards describing some of the exhibits, written by the man who originally opened the museum. All I can say is that he took a very opinionated view on some of the items.

I think it's almost impossible to live in Cornwall and not have visited the Eden Project more times than you can count, but still I manage to find interesting things to photograph every time, which is good, because I have a locals' pass, which means I'm probably not going to stop visiting it any time soon.

These two little birds are roul-roul partridges, who roam freely in the rainforest biome. Every time I go to Eden I try to get a picture of them, and every time they run away too fast for me and my camera, but not this time! I am extremely pleased that I finally managed to capture two of them.