Monday, 11 December 2017

5 Non-Fiction Books About Writing Fiction

In November 2015, I completed NaNoWriMo for the first time. For those who don't know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it happens in November. The challenge is to write at least 50,000 words of a novel during the month, and if you do, you win! You don't win anything tangible, but trust me, knowing you've made it to the finish line is all the prize you need.

Since then, however, I haven't touched my work. The Word document has sat nestled in its folder on my desktop gathering dust (pixels?) and watching sadly whilst I click anything but it. That doesn't mean that my novel hasn't been on my mind, though - I've thought about it so much. I know it needs a lot of work, and I know it isn't finished. The reason I haven't touched it isn't because I got bored, or because I didn't know what to do with it, but simply because I told myself that I mustn't start working on it again until I'd finished my A Levels, which have taken up most of my focus for the last year.

Like I said, though, that didn't stop me from thinking about it. Thinking isn't the same as actually writing! That's okay, right? It didn't stop me from shopping, either. I bought a couple of books about the writing craft, and was gifted a few more on birthdays or at Christmas. I've said this before, but at some point in my early teens, I stopped wanting to be a writer, which had previously been my ultimate life dream. I lacked confidence, and being someone who struggles to write at length and always has done, I couldn't see myself ever being able to write a full-length novel no matter how much I wanted to. With NaNoWriMo 2015, the dream came back. I proved to myself that I could do it.

So, whilst I couldn't actively work on my novel, I could still try to improve my writing in the meantime. There are so many books on writing out there, and I know from scrolling down the Amazon search results that it's seriously overwhelming, so I thought it might help some of you if I shared the ones I thought looked best!

Complete Creative Writing Course by Chris Sykes

'The only comprehensive creative writing title on the market that goes beyond introducing the basic genres to offering a complete journey along the writing path, including material on editing, redrafting and polishing a piece of work. Featuring the unique workshop exercises to encourage readers to hone their work rather than just progressing through a number of exercises. Takes the reader from complete beginner or committed amateur to the point you've completed, edited and redrafted your work and are ready for publication.'

Master Lists for Writers by Bryn Donovan

This book does what it says on the tin: it contains master lists for writers on characteristics, plots, names, and more. To some of you, it will seem genius. To others, it'll seem downright lazy. I think it's brilliant, because it can be used either as an ultimate guide, where you find something you like and stick it in your novel, or you can use it as inspiration to get you out of a writing slump. 'Write faster...write more! Master Lists for Writers makes 'show, don’t tell' a lot easier and helps you figure out your story more quickly. In this book, you’ll find:

• lists of phrases for describing facial expressions, body language, gestures, physical appearance, and emotions
• 175 master plot ideas, including romance, high-stakes, family, and workplace stories
• lists of words for writing action scenes and love scenes
• inspiration for figuring out character traits and quirks, backstories, occupations, motivations, and goals
• lists for describing settings and writing dialogue
• lists of good character names for contemporary stories... plus medieval England, Regency England, Wild West, and WWII settings
• and more!

Whether you’re writing novels or short fiction, screenwriting, or any other kind of storytelling, Master Lists for Writers is a rich source of inspiration you’ll turn to again and again. This book contains adult language.'

Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan

'Writing strong descriptions is an art form, one that you need to carefully develop and practice. The words you choose to describe your characters, scenes, settings, and ideas--in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction--need to precisely illustrate the vision you want to convey. Word Painting shows you how to color your canvas with descriptions that captivate readers. Inside, you'll learn how to:

  • Develop your powers of observation to uncover rich, evocative descriptions.
  • Discover and craft original and imaginative metaphors and similes.
  • Effectively and accurately describe characters and settings.
  • Weave description seamlessly through your stories, essays, and poems.

You'll also find dozens of descriptive passages from master authors and poets--as well as more than one hundred exercises--to illuminate the process. Whether you are writing a novel or a poem, a memoir or an essay, Word Painting will guide you in the creation of your own literary masterpiece.'

The Writer's Idea Book by Jack Heffron

'Writers will jump start their creativity with over 500 unique idea-generating prompts, from clustering to role-playing to automatic writing, that get the words flowing.'

Get Started in Writing Young Adult Fiction by Juliet Mushens

Juliet Mushens is a publishing queen and certainly someone who knows what they're talking about, so if you're looking to write YA, this needs to be at the top of your shopping list. 'This is an authoritative and engaging introduction to writing young adult fiction for the complete beginner. It will help you understand how the genre works, the big do's and don't's - as well as giving you the inspiration and motivation you actually need to write. Written by a leading literary agent who knows what it takes to make it in this market, this book will give you the advice and tips you need to stand out. An essential book for anyone hoping to emulate the success and addictive qualities that characterise books like The Hunger Games, Twilight, Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars.'

I can't wait to get stuck into all of these properly, and to get back to work on my 'novel' - there's certainly a lot to do...

Do you have any book recommendations when it comes to non-fiction about writing?

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Paris Diaries: Day 4

And so we come to the end of our travels... click here to read about day 3!

The last day was so chilled. We didn't leave the apartment until the early afternoon, when we grabbed brunch from a nearby crêperie which turned out to be the best place ever. It was tucked away down a non-touristy side-street and it felt like we'd come across a hidden gem. I had a crêpe filled with creamed potatoes and French onion, and then shared a chocolate and cinnamon crêpe for dessert. 13/10 would go again.

Unfortunately I managed to leave the apartment with a dead camera so the following photos are from my phone...

After our crêpes, we went to Notre Dame cathedral and had a wander. The photos from my phone don't come close to doing it justice.

Aaaand then things got dramatic. One of my friends popped into a souvenir shop to spend her very last euro. We had a nice wander back to the Metro, got back to the apartment, packed our bags, tidied up and made the place look brand new again... we'd put the keys on the dining table and were literally halfway out the door when my friend realised that she didn't have her camera. Cue frantic unpacking of her suitcase with about 50 minutes to go until check-in closed for our train at Gare Du Nord. Nothing.

So that's how we ended up splitting, with two of us going ahead to the station with all the bags (so tiring, so sweaty, but restored my faith in humans as so many people helped on the Metro stairs without us having to ask) and the one who lost her camera going all the way back across Paris on her own to see if she could find the camera. To make things even more dramatic, when we left the UK her data roaming failed, meaning we had zero way of contacting her.

I stress-bought a pain au chocolat. Obviously.

She made it back to us a few minutes before check-in closed, empty-handed, which has to be one of (one of) the most devastating things that can happen on a holiday. I felt so bad for her, and so sad about the photos and videos of all of us that we'll never see. Felt even worse when the bar on the Eurostar didn't have the risotto I so desperately wanted so I had to settle for a sandwich. #FirstWorldProblems.

But all in all it was such an amazing experience and one which I will never forget. I'm so happy that I finally got to tick off what's been #1 on my bucket list for my entire life, and I'm already planning to go back next year.

Thanks for keeping up with my Paris travels!

Monday, 20 November 2017

Paris Diaries: Day 3

Click here to read about Day 2.

Our third day began with toast and a trip to the Picasso museum. Picasso is my favourite artist so we had to go there. Plus, because France appears to be a country that gives back to its young people as opposed to rinsing them of thousands like some countries I could mention, we got into the museum as well as most other attractions - like the Louvre - for free.

For lunch, we went to Hank Burger, which you can think of as a vegan Gourmet Burger Kitchen BUT BETTER. I would genuinely go to Paris just for a Hank Burger lunch and then come home. Also, the interior was white, grey and yellow, with copper accents, distressed wood and adorable mismatched cushions. It was like my brain threw up. They could've had better lighting for the Instagram hipsters like myself but I won't hold it against them.


As we'd done the biggest things on our list (the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower...) we decided to go back to the apartment for what I like to call Naps & Snacks™. We were exhausted from visiting so many places in such a short amount of time, and our lunch had been rather large... you know you're getting old when you have to nap after you've eaten. Life comes at you fast.

Once it was dark and we'd eaten dinner (4-minute noodles with boiling water as the only requirement, yes please and thank you) we made a spontaneous trip to the Arc de Triomphe which turned out to be amazing not only because we got in for free yet again, but also because of the view. Before the trip, I'd assumed that going up the Eiffel Tower would be my favourite bit, but you can't see the tower... from the tower. You can see it from the Arc de Triomphe though, and it looks incredible, especially when it sparkles (which happens for a couple of minutes on the hour, every hour, after sunset.)

By that point it was getting on for midnight, so we made our way back to the apartment ready for our final day...

Check back tomorrow for day 4!