Sunday, October 30, 2011

NaNoWriMo Time!

Yes, it’s that lovely time of the year again when all (aspiring) writers spend a whole month sitting behind their laptops and computers, with a visible post-it explosion in the room and scribbled notes screaming for attention. Where food is a mere necessity and energy drinks are as important as oxygen. That’s right, I’m talking about NaNoWriMo! J
I remember reading an article on how to write a novel in three days and tried to picture it. The image invoked was one painted with stress and a lot of hair pulling. I cannot imagine writing a novel in three days because I know how long it takes if you want to do it right. Nonetheless, this is how my fascination began with how long it could take to write a novel. So I started with a month. I started with NaNoWriMo.
I’ll start by saying I did make it. I even finished a day early. While I studied at the University. And if I can do it, so can you. It’s just a matter of making it a habit. You get home from work or school and sit down and just write for the sake of writing. Keep going, even if you find out it’s rubbish later on. The first draft is about going with the flow, because that’s where the good stuff usually is. Perfecting it lies with the following drafts. A useful writing tool can be which makes you set a word goal and write those words in one sitting. Best. Invention. Ever. Next to the laptop. And food.
If you’re new at writing it can be quite daunting to even think about finishing a novel, but I highly recommend it. Just get those words on paper. Reread it later. The least you’ll be left is, is a handful of new ideas. At most, a novel. What do you have to lose? Except for sleep.
A little tip before you get started…I advise you to have some basic idea of where you are going. Even if it is just a clear idea of the characters or a general idea for the main plot. The rest you can figure out along the way. Hell, you might even change it along the way. Just write, reread and keep writing.
Good luck and most importantly; have fun! J

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Upside Down

“Take that, you bastard,” Amy said out loud. She threw the last of Jay’s clothes out the window of her appartment. Not many clothes were lying around but she had searched for anything belonging to him. It was the only thing she could do to hurt him back.
            “Whatcha doing, there?”
            Amy turned around, her heart nearly jumping out of her chest. “You scared me,” she said.
            “And you are throwing stuff out the window,” Melanie replied. “We may be best friends but if I find anything of mine down there, I might have to kill you.”
            Despite everything, Amy managed a slight tug at the corner of her lips.
She looked at the floor and took a deep breath. “It’s Jay, he kind of – ” She shrugged.
            “What? What did he do?” Melanie took off her jacket and walked towards Amy.
            “He cheated on me.” As soon as the words escaped her lips she felt the tears well up in her amber eyes.
            “Oh, no.” Melanie hugged her tight and gently patted her back.
            “How could he do that to me?” Amy asked a bottle of wine later. They were sitting on the couch and were surrounded by tissues. 
            “Because he’s a man,” Melanie said.
            “Good point.” Amy took a sip of the glass of red wine Melanie had poured for them.
“So how did you find out he was cheating on you?”
            “I found a bra in my bed. It wasn’t mine.”
            Melanie gasped. “You’re kidding?”
            Amy shook her head. Apparently he took her back to my place, don’t know why. Probably closest to where he’d picked her up. I threw down the sheets as well. Might have to burn my matress.” She took a sip of her wine.
            “What will you do when he comes over and sees all his stuff on the ground?”
            “Won’t have to do anything, I put the bra on the doorknob, so he’ll know. Trust me, he won’t knock on the door if he knows what’s good for him.”
            And he did.
            The next day Amy woke up at noon with a slight hangover. She hauled herself out of bed and nearly tripped over her fuzzy slippers. Her blonde hair hung over her face like a veil. She blew some strands out of the way. “This is going to be a great day.”

            “This is the worst day, ever.” Melanie sighed and stared ahead while Emma and Norah ran around her chair with their jumping rope in their hands.
            “Children, it is bad to tie up your babysitter! Stop it!” Melanie shouted and tried to wriggle out of the rope. “I don’t get paid enough for this crap.”
            Emma and Norah stopped. “What does crap mean?” Norah asked.
            “It’s another word for…puppies. It means puppies.” Melanie took the distraction as an opportunity to wriggle her hand free. She took the rope from one of the girls and started pulling herself free.
            “Want to play hide and seek?” Norah, who was the eldest, asked.
            “We could, but I’m afraid I’d be too tempted to not look.”
            The girls looked at each other, puzzled.
            “Don’t worry, this kind of sarcasm is for teenagers only. You’ll get there.”
            At that moment the key in the lock of the frontdoor turned.
            “Yay, mummy and daddy are home,” Melanie said dryly.
            The kids rushed to greet them while Melanie grabbed her bag with her schoolbooks since she’d come straight from school. For some reason it felt extra heavy now.
            Mr and Mrs Briggs were wearing jeans and shirts that probably were for special occasions, such as date night, but were nowhere near special. Mr Briggs pants even had a hole in it. Luckily not in any awkward place.
Their clothing wasn’t a surprise, really. Mr Briggs was a funeral undertaker and Mrs Briggs taught sowing at different middle schools. No wonder they needed date nights.
            “There you go, Melanie,” Mr Briggs said. He handed her a ten pound note.
            “Thanks,” Melanie mumbled. She closed the door behind her, but not in time to miss the words: “Mummy, can we have a crap, please?”

 Melanie took the short way home, which meant she had to walk through poorly lit park that lead to the street they lived in. The air was cold even though it wasn’t winter yet. She zipped up her jacket and picked up the pace. She wanted to get home to Amy as soon as possibly. Who knew how she was taking her break up?
            A weird noise made Melanie turn around. She studied the path behind her, at least, she tried to. She took out her phone and used the light to see somewhat better. She turned back around and walked faster as before, occasionally turning around. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary so far. The leaves on the bushes and oak trees shivered ferociously as the wind swept through them.
            Melanie heard the noises again and stopped in her tracks. It almost sounded like a sort of crunching. She turned around, ready to hit the weird crunching person with her fist, only as soon as she turned around something flew in her face. She screamed and stumbled back and after a few seconds of making spastic movements, she gathered the courage to grab whatever awful thing was on her face.
It was a piece of paper.
            I have to remind myself to never ever become a police officer, she thought to herself.
            She was about to throw the paper away until she noticed what it said. It was an advert saying they looked for an experienced babysitter. Her hazel eyes sped back and forth over the paper, soaking in every word. Then she ran all the way home as if her life dependent on it. Although to Melanie, it kind of felt that way.
            “Amy! Amy!” she shouted as soon as she entered their appartment.
            Everything looked just as Melanie had left it this morning. The small kitchen was clean, the countertops still shining. A few glasses in the sink. The dark red couch with a few cushions on it and the coffee table had spread out magazines and a newspaper. No tissues, no wine, no empty chocolate wrappers.
            Melanie nodded with approval at the realisation that Amy was stronger than she’d thought.
            She opened Amy’s bedroom and nearly dropped the piece of paper.
            Her bed was filled with tissues, ripped up photos of the happy couple and an empty bucket of icecream. Amy sat behind her desk, her laptop in front of her, the screen blank. Her hair made it seem like Amy had been in a tornado and she was somewhat relieved that Amy’s back was turned towards her.
            “Well, now I feel sorry that I didn’t bring any birdseeds for the birds in your hair.”
            “Very funny,” Amy mumbled.
            “Have you been writing?”
            “Trying to. For some reason I only come up with stories that involve killing boyfriends.”
            “You probably shouldn’t tell your agent that.” Melanie sat down on her bed, using a clean tissue to move the dirty ones out of the way. “Usually when you have writer’s block you need some distraction to clear your head.”
            “How do you know that?” Amy looked at her with puffy, red eyes and chocolate around her mouth.
            Melanie had trouble keeping a straight face.
            “Because I’m brilliant. Now, tomorrow night we are going out to a big mansion and stay there overnight.” She nodded enthousiastically.
            “To make money,” Melanie answered.
            “What? My boyfriend cheats, I have writer’s block and now we’re prostitutes?” Amy rested her head on the keyboard in dispair.
            “No, of course not. It’s a babysitting job. There are five kids and the single father needs to go away on a short business trip. They need experienced people and I probably can’t do it alone, I think it will be alright if it’s the both of us. We’ll probably get paid a lot.”
            “How do you know that?”
            “The guy lives in a mansion. And it says so on this flyer.” She held up the yellow coloured flyer with the bold black letters.
            Amy grabbed it from her and read it.
            “It sounds like the lure of a serial killer. Plus, even it was true, you’re not that experienced. It seems these kids are trouble, which is probably why he pays so much. You get tied up everytime you babysit.”
            “That is not…that true,” Melanie said, twisting her fingers on her lap.
            Amy raised her eyebrow.
            “Look, we need the money. I’m sure we can do it together.”
            “I don’t know, I think I’d rather stay here and jump out of window or something.” Amy went back to staring at her blank screen.
            “Don’t make me do the face,” Melanie said in a flat voice.
            Amy’s eyes widened for a second. “No, that’s not going to work,” she said. Her voice trembled slightly.
            Melanie sat on her knees, raised her hands to below her chin and looked up with wide eyes, occasionally blinking and pouting at the same time. Nobody was as skilled in this as she was. As a kid she got more birthday presents than her friends and she was glad she had never lost that skill. Never know when you might need it.
            The next evening they were sitting in a cab and drove through Wellington Forest to get to Halliwell Mansion. It was situated on a hill, overlooking the river and the town they lived in.
            Melanie smiled as she glanced at Amy. She was staring out of the window with her arms crossed. She had spent all day getting from bed to shower to closet to front door. It was a long process. Melanie was just grateful Amy had succeeded. Even though she had circles under her eyes, she did look slightly more like herself. She had her hair tied up and a bit of make up on. She wore her latest pair of jeans and a long-sleeved, black shirt. Beats PJs with chocolate stains. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Same as it Never was

The gentle tapping sound of raindrops smashing against the window of the car was a reassuring one. Even though I was staring out the window I didn’t really see anything. I was in another place. I was still in the hospital. The first place I can remember. Not because I was born there, in fact I don’t even know if I was born in a hospital. My earliest memory ever was only a week ago.
            I looked to the right and observed the man who was driving the silver Sedan that was apparently ours. His hair was dark and sleek, his lips full and his dark eyes seemed empty. He was my husband, or so I was told. Nothing about him seemed familiar.
            We drove on in silence as my thoughts returned to the previous days. The hospital room I had been in had felt like home and leaving with a stranger that claimed to be married to me felt like walking blindfolded at the edge of a cliff. What the hell did I get myself into? Physically I may have recovered from the accident, but I can’t even remember who I am, let alone remember who I am around these people.
            We pulled up in front of a red bricked semi-detached house. It had large windows at the front and a wooden door that was painted black.
            “Are you ready?” Jason asked.
            I stared at the house and tried to see if I recognised anything.
            I turned to him. “Oh, right. Yes, I’m ready.”
            Jason got out of the car first and walked back to my side to open the door.
            The cool autumn breeze was welcoming and I closed my eyes for a second. When I opened them again I was still staring at the house that was my home. My husband got the bag from the trunk which held some of my stuff that I’d used when I was in the hospital.
            I studied the front yard that was surrounded by a picket fence. Stone steps lead to the front door and alongside it were planted hyacinths. The rest of the garden was made up of grass that was neatly trimmed. I wondered if I always took care of the garden. Did I even like plants or flowers? I shook my head in an attempt to dismiss my thoughts. I just had to take it step by step.
            The frontdoor flew open and a little red-headed girl with freckles dashed my way.
            “Mummy,” she called as she held out her arms.
            I stood frozen and watched as she hugged my waist. I had been preparing myself for this moment since I’d found out I was a mother, but in my mind I always figured my mother instinct would kick in and I would remember my own child. My body trembled with the realisation that I did not. 
            “Alright, Daisy, let Mummy get inside first.” Jason took Daisy by the hand and led her inside.
            I looked back at the car and had to fight the urge to get in and drive back to the hospital. I did not belong here. I didn’t even know them. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Welcome to England

Today I can sigh with relief and bask myself in the glory that is internet. In case anyone thinks this is an overreaction…try living without internet for over a week while you’ve just moved to another country. Not fun. At all.
It turns out though, that living next to a pub has its advantages, other than the obvious.
It has free wi-fi and if I sit on the right spot on the stairs, the internet fairy manages to sprinkle some of her internet dust my way. It’s quite uncomfortable to sit on the stairs and skype with your parents, because we all know those conversations aren’t over in just a few minutes. But it’s worth it. Especially since they can’t stalk me through my phone. Apparently I need a British simcard first. Luckily I’ve already made friends and I’m getting help in that department. So simcard is on the way. I’m getting closer to the blisfull state of being reachable everywhere.
Now for the subject of my classes. Writing. Ah yes, getting to write throughout the year instead of listening to boring lectures about stuff you forget after an hour, a day if you’re lucky. THE dream for any writer. My first class is on Monday at 1 PM and I have it every other week (that’s right, I have a lot of spare time on my hands). It’s called the Creative Writing Project. It means you get to work on your personal pet project for twelve weeks, working with fellow students who critique your work (gently) and a teacher who guides you along the way in individual tutorials. Can you say awesome? Because I can and I’m saying it right now.
I’ve had people who read my stuff and commented on it, but not writers and not people whom you won’t feel guilty about asking to read your stuff because you’re afraid it will just take up their time and they do it to be nice. This time I know everyone wants to read it and you know you want to read other people’s stuff. Because writing is just as important to you as it is to everyone else. At least, I hope so.
There was also a free writing exercise which existed of the teacher writing down five subjects and us writing about each of them, spending about three minutes tops on each subject. I must say that it does make the creative juices flow. 
Fiction 1 is my other class and it is as cool as it sounds. It’s on Wednesdays at 11 PM. And yes, these are my only classes in the week. It makes sense though, writing isn’t done through lectures, it’s done by doing it. Hmm, how profound.

Skipping ahead to two days in the future…
Just had Fiction 1 today, which is now my favourite class :) It started out with the basic information and stuff we need to know but we also did a writing exercise that involved plotting. Basically you get a sheet with things like: Write a question that interests you. Now write something you think is funny. What special skill do you have? Make up a title of a novel, just off the top of your head. Where would it be set?
Then you move on to the characters. You have space for four characters and you write down something you are or have been behind each character. I’m guessing because you should always write what you know, so you’re characters must be something you can relate to and understand. Then you write an emotion with each character that you’ve recently felt. Then you write an exciting or interesting event, followed by a boring event. Lastly you write down an animal, object or plant that you find interesting. Then you tie all these elements together to write a coherent plot. The challenge is that you make sure everything is in there. Also, it’s FUN! So try it.
Next to writing 500 words every week we also have to write about the books we read and keep a rough notebook where we jot down interesting things we see in detail. Catching every detail is the most important thing. Also, it needs to be factual observation only. I usually have a little bit of trouble with describing in detail, also because I’m afraid it destracts from the real story and I just want to focus on that. So I’m glad we get to do this, because it’s the details that make up the realness of the world.
That’s it for now and I will leave you with one final tip that I really loved: start every story with a question. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Book Review: City of the Falling Sky

Usually I am not a big fan of self published books, but that is because my first experience proved there is usually a good idea but it hasn’t been explored to its full potential. This is definitely not the case with City of the Falling Sky by Joseph Evans.
The characters are alive enough to be kicking, the dialogue is realistic and there is enough humour and suspense to keep you hooked. 
The names at first bothered me because they’re just so silly, but then they made me laugh and kind of grew on me. They add to the realness of the alternate universe that Evans paints in our heads.
This future world isn’t over-explained in any way and we are not assumed to be stupid, which is usually nice. The story flows nicely and is never boring or too predictable. For fans of sci-fi this will be a nice addition to their collection. Enjoy the read!

Follow Evans on Twitter:!/JosephCEvans

Friday, August 5, 2011

Writing Tips

This is a poster from and I have it right above my desk so I can look up at it in despair at any moment when my muse has forsaken me. And by forsaken I mean escaped, because I have her chained to my desk most of the times.
I really like this poster because it shows simple tips yet important tips.
The tips are pretty self-explanatory but I’d like to say something about them with regard to my personal experiences.

  1. If you write every day, you get better at writing every day.
Basically, this means that you should write something every day and make it a habit. I try to live up to this rule, but I have to admit I don’t always write every day. In all fairness, I had school and now that I have my holiday I really need to unwind from all the stress, but when things were calmer at school I wrote every day (I even entered NaNoWriMo and finished one day early, despite all my homework). So I can recommend this tip to everyone. Even when you’re busy or your mind feels like a puddle of blegh, just write one sentence. Even if it is crap. For some reason it keeps you in the zone and if you become a full-time writer the skill of staying-in-the-zone will come very much in hand.

  1. If it’s boring to you, it’s boring to your reader.
Right, so you write every single day like the good little girl of boy that you are, but you find yourself making up stuff just to keep going and as you write it becomes more like a drag. If writing is your job, then sometimes it will feel like a job. Personally I think it’s okay if you don’t really ‘feel’ it, but that is because with me it doesn’t affect my writing, just my mood. It does make me a lot slower in writing and what I usually do is go back to the beginning and read it. This way I get excited about my story again and feel like I’m in ‘the zone’. If you read and you do find yourself being bored by a particular part, then it is usually a good idea to change it, because in that case it will also be boring to your reader.

  1. Get a writing routine and stick with it.
This one is similar to number one and basically means that you should get a writing routine and stick with it. Surprising, I know. Anyway, this one is pretty clear. I don’t have writing routine. Unless when just writing is a routine. If you are a full-time writer, I suppose a writing routine is key. But I imagine it exists of writing during the day, from a certain time until around dinner time. I do have a schedule up on my white board that says what I want to finish, usually it’s per chapter, so I try to finish one chapter per two days. I write, sometimes get a drink, go to the bathroom and take a little break by surfing the web or watching one of my series. I don’t really think of it as a routine, it’s just writing. So forget any sort of structure, just write and stick with that!

  1. Poetry doesn’t have to rhyme.
Ah, poetry. I can actually take poetry as a course for my Master, but I’m not sure if I want to do that. Poetry has always been one of my hobbies, even before writing fiction, but I don’t think I want to study it. Poetry, in my opinion, is so personal and I write it more for me than any reader, so I’m afraid if I take that course that it will suck the fun right out of it. Anyway, the tip itself is pretty clear. Poetry knows no boundaries. Kind of the same with writing. You’re the God(dess) of your own universe.

  1. Resist stereotypes.
Very important tip! Indeed also in real life. Stereotypes are based on truth, but when it comes to people, there is no general truth because people are too different for that. Too unique. With writing you want to create uniqueness, even for minor characters because they all have something in common; you want to bring them to life. In order to do that, you have to show their ‘realness’, which in turn leads to uniqueness and the many different aspects that go with it.  So even though stereotypes are easy because everybody recognises them, it’s just the easy way out. Sometimes, stereotypes can help if you want to portray them in a shallow way, but I doubt many writers would want that. There should always be some depth in a character or even an unexpected characteristic that makes you wonder about this person. So generally speaking, if a stereotypical character pops up in your head, knock him unconcious and throw him out. Only let him back in if he’s got a real personality.

  1. Writers read.
What you write, will be read…hopefully. So it’s important to know what is out there and the only way you can find out is by reading. Nobody wants to write something that’s already been written before. (Unless when it’s a huge improvement on the original idea). Eitherway, reading is a way to learn from authors and to see what they are doing and most importantly…how.

  1. Make lists of your favourite words, places etc.
I’m not really big on making lists. At all. I do get the point though. It keeps you writing and it is a great way to generate ideas!

  1. There doesn’t always have to be a moral to the story.
Sure, it’s nice to have a story with a message, one that makes you think, but sometimes it’s just nice to escape. As a writer, you can do both, but you don’t necessarily have to do both. Have fun. Write what’s in your heart. Hang on to your imagination and let it take you to places far, far away! At least, that’s what I do.

  1. Always bring your notebook and a spare pen.
If you’re always going to write, bring something to write with. Personally, I’m addicted to things like notebooks, pens and post-its. With really pretty notebooks I use a pencil so I can erase everything and start over. I’ll probably never do it, but it’s nice to know I can.

  1. Go for walks. Dance. Pull weeds. Do the dishes. Write about it.
Alright, these tips might be a bit repetitional, but at least the focus is in the right place. Write about everything. Especially everyday stuff. Why? Writing is about life, even if it involves werewolves and vampires, it always features aspects of normal life. Also, writing about going for a walk or doing the dishes might spark some ideas. It’s a good writing exercise. Personally, I use it to tune up my description skills.

  1. Don’t settle on just one style.
I think from my first post it’s pretty clear I already do that and I highly recommend doing it. Trying new styles is fun and even if you find out something is not for you, you will still have learned something.

  1. Learn to tell both sides of the story.
This is my favourite tip, because I always get so frustrated when there is a bad guy that is so utterly bad, without the explanation as to why or anything else that gives him depth. Writing is about exploring and I have always had the desire to understand things, the need to know. If there is a character I can’t understand, then I get frustrated and stop caring. If someone is the worst person in the world and I understand where that comes from then I can accept that person and I don’t mind reading about him. People aren’t just black or white, they’re many shades of grey. So should characters be.

12.5  Stop looking at this poster.
Back to the main tip of the poster. Just shut up and write! Write now. 


How does one start the first post on a brand new blog? I think I’ll start mine with what I’m most passionate about. Writing. After all, this blog is going to be about my writing shenanigans, as well as tips on how to play with your imaginary friends AKA characters. 

So this passion of mine began when I was about twelve, obviously sprung from my love for books. Back then, it was more of an interest than anything serious. Then when I turned fifteen, I became more focused in trying to perfect my writing and finish an actual story. That’s also when I began looking into what writing is all about, with help from the internet as well as books on writing. I figured it would come in handy. (And it did).

That brings me to the Creative Writing Course in the second year of my education, which was actually the main reason that I chose to study English language and culture at Utrecht. They were the only University that taught that course. It lasted way too short in my opinion, so I’ll be relieved when I can drown in information while getting my Master’s Degree. Yes, if someone went all Misery on me and locked me in a room with a typewriter, I would be quite the happy camper. 

In case you’re interested, my writing style is all about diversity. I like to write as diverse as possible, maybe because I’m diverse myself. I like to explore all of my interests in my writing. I also want to play with different writing styles and voices. I want to explore as much as possible and find out what suits the story the best.

My favourite genre is fantasy. Probably because I have such a big imagination. I find myself incorporating it into most of my stories. I want to write a crime/mystery (that’s actually WIP #3), but also a drama, a chicklit and a thriller. The funny thing is, I already have ideas for most of those. Like I said, lots of imagination.

Anyway, I currently have three WIPs partially on paper and mostly in my brain. First two are a mystery and a fantasy that involve witches and that’s all I’m going to share with you for now. I may or may not drop a hint or a line on Twitter or here. For now, let’s write on!