Posts Tagged ‘ writing ’

I Write Everything Backwards – Or Forwards Depending on Perspective

Review Holly Ice Writing Novel While I Slept Elisa Art Vibes

Picture by this lovely artist: http://artvibes.tumblr.com/ (Very talented)
I feel very much like this frog- trying to keep the cold rain out of my MSS one word at a time with only a flimsy leaf for help.

So how can I write backwards and forwards? Well I write in linear fashion but have a very loose plan for novel and for short stories. I usually have an idea of the main issue; a group of serial killings, a kidnapping, a love interest gone right etc. However I usually don’t have a clear idea of the ending until I get to it or what the characters are like until I start writing them.

This can be a problem.

It can also make the writing process more fun and realistic.

What reader is going to know the back story of your characters, their pets, fears and hair colour until you introduce them? I know many writers and writing advice articles will focus on the need to plan. I’ve tried it before – these endless character sheets and plot planning bullet points. It stifles me creatively. The last thing my spontaneous imagination and muse wants is a list. I hate lists. Lists are for chores and homework and shopping. Not writing.

This is where many will say I’m going backwards. I edit the story and only then look at it to see if it makes proper sense. I have to fix plot gaps where things have been added but not introduced or dropped but not had a proper good bye scene. This makes my editing a lot harder. It also makes the first draft much less complete.

Of course, I’m still looking for better ways of planning and a few have been suggested to me or have come to my attention.

One is a sentence for each scene of the novel. Not a bad idea but my best ideas usually come to me in process. Other ideas are to expand upon this and change it as the novel progresses. Again, not a bad idea but I’m a lazy sod and like keeping to one document. I procrastinate enough as it is without another one.

But with the way I work my first draft will need better structure. So far I’ve found two great articles by Randy Ingermanson. Whole novel structure in the Snowflake Method and scene by scene editing with thing/action reaction units here (all free to read and use). It sounds like maths but it really isn’t. I used to do langauges and my brain just needed this simple formula of how to make words do what I think I know I want them to do but can’t quantify.

The character part of his snowflake method even helped me work out what was wrong with one of my novel’s characters. I knew something was but couldn’t place it without his help so I am indebted to him for that. The scene section kept me up all night one night and forced me to write 2000 words in 30 minutes before I could sleep. That’s as high a recommendation as I can give for motivation.

I’m yet to see if these plans will work at the “correct” side or more usual side of novel workings – in the planning stages. That’s for the next book to find out. For now, his advice and the book Self Editing for Fiction Writers  is going to be in the wings, waiting for my first draft to be complete.

If there is any advice you can give me for the next stage of writing and perfecting this thing, please, please, leave a comment.

Hopefully I’ve shown you something that’ll help you, too.

Holly Ice

The Sorrow of Putting a Good Book Down

Erin Hart Lake of Sorrows Holly Ice Blog Author Writer Review Reviews Story Stories Novel Novels

Still sitting on my desk and propping up my dinner plate

 

No, it’s not propping up my dinner plate because it is bad. Quite the opposite. It is being used as a temporary balancer because I’m not yet ready to put it back on the bookshelf to gather dust.

This book was a great read from start to finish. There are two murdered victims preserved in peat- a modern and an ancient one but the wounds appear similar. The suspects and suspicious characters mount to a degree I’ve never seen before in novels without reaching unrealistic proportions.

There are secrets within secrets, deceptions, mistruths and many examples of people being used for another’s gain. That’s life. That’s a small village/town.

Erin Hart captures the familiarity of the in club in a small town and extorts this atmosphere to create the environment in which there can be a series of murders and a list of suspects so long I did not guess the killer until the clues had mounted to a point of obvious realisation.

Many authors cannot achieve this and the plot is up within a few chapters. Not this one! It keeps the reader interested and reels them along for over 400 pages of fast paced murder mystery and stewing relationship problems and successes. 

And, above everything, the environment is what sticks with me most about this book. The swampy peat land with its ancient sacredness and old names and history has seeped into my soul in the reading of this novel. I know a lot more, now, about swamps, the celts, and bee keeping and, somehow, it has made me feel more complete.

Definitely a book to add to your memories and not to leave to dust on the bookshelf. 

I give this book a grand 5/5. If I could give it more, I could: not many books cling to the reader like this one. 

A Story About a Shoe

Capture1

This is pretty much what it looks like. On holiday in Latvia, on two occasions, I saw a shoe bereft of its partner. In both cases, these shoes were heels and left standing as if someone walked right out of them. Any girl should know this is odd: even really drunk, there is a rather large discrepancy between a heeled foot and an unheeled foot.

My father and I actually stared at this shoe for a good ten minutes, wondering what could have happened to the owner and one of these musings got me an idea for a story to submit to the hgwells festival competition for 2013. I started the story yesterday and intend to finish up the last little bits today.

Goes to show: inspiration is anywhere and within the most unlikely of objects.

If you have a weird event that inspired a story, let me know! Let’s see how weird it gets.

Hope all are well.

Holly Ice

Procrastination, Snot and Writing

 

pollen hayfever holly ice writing writer author

It’s about time I updated you all about my own writing. So far this summer I have one short story provisionally accepted, two rejected and two still waiting on replies. In addition, one poem has been accepted for publication this summer. I also have 2-3 stories I still need to polish and find a home for.

I’m not sure if this is good or bad for a writer – is a 25% success rate good, average, bad? I’m sure you all can share your experiences and let me know. Rejection is always hard but the major problem for me is confidence.

Yes, I’ve had things published, a number now actually, but so what? Many people get things published and are never heard of or are, in literary circles, a joke.

I shouldn’t care about that, I know. I should get on with my creative vision and love the lives I create but sometimes it gets to me. Encouragement and determination are what gets a book written and, I will admit, I have been procrastinating.

I have had god awful hayfever and often it has stopped me from sleeping – the blocked and running nose kind, the prequel to the you-will-never-breathe-again worry. It has made me miserable down to my toes and up to my very foggy head. It felt like I was on lag for weeks.

Thankfully the doctor has prescribed some steroid-based nasal spray and stronger anti-histamines. So far, much better. Here’s hoping to clearer thoughts, and noses!

The reprieve has given me some motivation, enough to finish writing a story for Almond Press’ new anthology ‘After the Fall‘. I have a holiday to go on next week (Latvia here I come) and after that it’s time to delve back into the novel, for better or worse.

As most writers, I just have to give myself one big dose of ‘you aren’t that bad’ and get on with it.

Good luck to the rest of you in my position!

See you all in a week.

Holly Ice

Slate Ahn and the Books of Knowledge: Part I, Graham M Irwin. A fantasy epic with pirates, wolves, shipwrecks AND political corruption

Graham M Irwin Holly Ice Review Slate Ahn Books of Knowledge Legend of Alm

I was gifted this book free of charge on a read for review policy.

Graham Irwin knows how to create a wondrous world full of raspberry coloured bumble bees and exotic plants or wolves which decide to bond to individuals of good merit. He creates habitats and environment as well as original culture.

Of course, world creation is a huge part of fantasy and his achievement here does a lot to ingratiate himself with a fantasy audience. I must also say that the illustrator for the cover did a beautiful job.

Holly Ice blogHowever there are still issues with his writing, particularly in the prologue.

There is a lot of unnecessary description of the Ahn family and their daily lives that adds nothing to the plot; this is things like what they eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner and how they act year round. This back story is not necessary to the novel.

In fact, I believe the prologue could be cut significantly. It could do with opening on page 8 with ‘The tradition bound people of the village observed in the workings of the universe an order…’ This chimes in with the ideology of the villagers and within a paragraph the narrative focuses on the Ahn family. It also gets all the major tradition issues in without the boring parts of what they eat for breakfast. Plus, it is a catchier first sentence (and the major tension of the opening is introduced within a few paragraphs!)

This would also get around the fact that Ahn, Alleste and Aelioanei are introduced close together at the original opening. 3 unfamiliar A words that close together just makes my head spin! In fact, place names beginning with any other letter would be a favour: even the world is called Alm! (I was glad that the western half of the island had place names beginning with other letters and wonder if there is a rational reason behind all the A names or it was just coincidental).

The poetic introduction before the prologue is beautiful. I would only change one like: substance bore distinction to nothingness. There are too many long words here which confuses the complex concept the poem is aiming for.

There is also a tendency towards the beginning of the novel for long, convoluted sentences. However this soon evens out as the narrative continues and the action becomes much more immediate.

Characters are mostly realistic, if a little wacky (but this is allowed in a different culture with different morals and values). I only noticed one seeming slip from the alternate world of Alm in the narrative. This is where a character said ‘such and such a city’ which hit me as a little gossipy in tone and too modern a phrase compared to the rest of the narrative. I also noticed one ‘YOUR wife’ which would be better expressed as ‘your wife’ even if it is bellowed.

However these are mostly small sentence-level problems. My major problem with the book was that it lost its direction. The protagonist began by needing to find his family and, about a third of the way into the book, he finds the reason for their disappearance. However, instead of immediately trying to find them he loses focus and goes to school for a year, seemingly for no reason.

From here, political corruption, mercenaries, imprisonment, pirates, shipwreck, fishing and many hikes through endless (and different coloured) forests ensues. I cannot fault the author on his world building here. In fact, I felt the fishing and boat details as well as the multitude of forest habitats were very well researched. Even the stimulants created seemed realistic and well-integrated into the society. My problem with this is that there is no focus.

Holly Ice blog Graham Irwin Slate Ahn

The core thread of the novel was the boy trying to find his family. This is lost and put on hold. At this point, there is no core reason for me to keep reading. I want to know about the boy and his family, not a random thread of events. I feel that the author has tried to fit too many fantasy adventures into the book without connecting them to the main thread of the novel. Even by the end of the novel, the boy has still not found one single member of his family!

So yes, I grew frustrated with this book plot-wise but this does not lessen Irwin’s world building prowess. If you like books that meander through a new, colourful world and are content to read on despite a long-winded approach to plot goals then this book will be a good read.

The sea is bubbling with new hollow jaws, the floors are writing with white grubs that crawl in the dark and the forests hide wolves that can be friends for life. It is, in essence, an open sandbox to a new, bright world.

I give ‘Slate Ahn and The Books of Knowledge Part I’ a robust 3/5.

If you would like to give it a go for yourself, The Legend of Alm, Slate Ahn and The Books of Knowledge Part I can be found on Amazon (UK link and US link)

As always, I can be found on twitter: Holly Ice

The Perfect Writing Retreat

love books i pinterest I author den writing author's

We all need a little down time now and again. Since I’m between finishing books, this seemed like a good time for a fun post. I’m sure many writers, including myself, have dreamed about the perfect place to write. I’m working on getting it right.

So far I have two ideas. Either a castle home with a secret doorway behind a bookcase – this then leads to a keypad which opens another door with my comfy lair orrrr something like a treehouse with electricity, no leaks, carpet, furniture, internet, and the sound of rain on the roof in bad weather. Both are appropriate for me :).

Of course, being a student in the rather ugly city of Stoke, I have neither of these. I’ve made do with a collection of what-could-bes. Here’s a couple of my favourites:

author's den writing retreattreehouse tree house writing den author's retreatmagical writing retreat writer's author's den tree house treehouse tree-house wendy beautiful

I hope these give you some ideas for where you would most love to write (and doesn’t cause you to procrastinate too much). Of course, writing can happen almost anywhere (at least it can for those of us who don’t mind too much noise/run around with headphones and a music player).

As always, I’m on twitter: Holly Ice
And more of the pictures I like can be found here

Have a great day and feel free to share your ideas below!

But A Dream – Jenny Gill – No Sleep for Me

But A Dream Jenny Gill Amazon Kindle

Well, this is another book that kept me up all night reading it.

I think the premise is what got me interested. It focuses on cellular memory. A woman that got a heart transplant begins to have dreams which make her a witness her donor’s murder.

Of course, this is an area I’m sure many authors have played around with before but the actual witnessing of a murder and the need to do something about it presents a problem. Who would believe her? How could they do anything about it? Etc.

The handling of this topic by the writer was done in an interesting style. Time moves back and forward, mostly at the beginning, to good effect. It feels (in atmosphere) something like investigative books of old – Carmilla, Dracula or Return of the Screw. This isn’t to say it’s old fashioned or boring – it just makes great use of the group investigative method and common sense. It’s welcome and different in a modern book.

The dialogue was very realistic, as were interactions with the children. The only exception to this was perhaps Richard, the protagonist’s husband. He was too soppy in my opinion and tended to repeat himself like an old record. He lacked personality in comparison to every other, fully rounded, character.

I also feel the multitude of people that needed to be filled in about the case was not only a problem for the protagonist, as  stated in the book, but for the author. There was a lot of worry over who should hear what and when. I think this would have gone smoother if the author had accepted there were that many characters and perhaps let some conflict happen over individuals not being kept up to date.

There were also a number of problems in the early pages: a missing comma, commas instead of colons, an abundance of unnecessary adverbs… At this point I think the author needs to read a sentence, taking out the adverb. If it works that way, leave it out. I say this because the imagery in the novel was very good. The adverbs only spoilt this good work.

There was also a slight clunkiness with the ‘he thought’s at the beginning. This could work better, and be more mysterious at the start, if the tags were left out.

However, all that said and done, the writing improved within a small number of pages and the grammar was generally of good standard. The story got me hooked and took me on a fun ride to its conclusion. I would recommend this as a shorter read to others. I think it took me about 2 hours or so to read. It is a book for adults and older teenagers, in my opinion.

And for the rating: 4/5 .
Good book for a summer read. Give it a go 🙂

I found the book through E Reader News , a site which collects daily some of the ‘bargain buys’ and free books on kindle. It also gives blurbs and a cover image to help you decide if you want to read them :).

From the looks of things, Jenny Gill is a self published author. She has two blogs: here and here if you would like to get to know her.

As always, yours truly is on twitter: Holly Ice

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