Friday 31 October 2014

Brontë Inspiration

Hello everyone! Today I thought I would I would upload a post about my recent trip to Haworth in Yorkshire, where my literary heroines, The Brontës, grew up. Ever since reading Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights I have wanted to visit the place where Charlotte, Emily and Anne grew up, as well as walking across the moors and seeing the sights that they would have seen themselves, on walks they took as young children.

Without a doubt the Brontës have driven me to want to become a writer, and continue with my dream in spite of any adversity I might face. In school, I decided to base my Extended Project on Charlotte Brontë, and since then I have gone on to read Villette, Shirley, Agnes Grey and Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Life of Charlotte Brontë, which is an incredible biography!

Anyway, here are some pictures from my trip- I hope you enjoy them! If you don’t know much about the Brontës it really is worth checking them out; the story of their life is extraordinary, and all of their books are simply beautiful.




Thursday 30 October 2014

'Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist' by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (*****)

Hello lovely people! I'm back today with a little book review for you: this time Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan! To be completely honest, I hadn't discovered these books or these authors before a copy of Infinite Playlist was slipped inside my goody bag at YALC (my haul is linked here!) The cover was so appealing and the blurb drew me in... I knew it would be something I would enjoy since I love a good classic teenage love story! However, with most books I read, it wasn't long before I discovered this book wasn't your typical love story. In fact, it didn't seem like a love story until the final chapter. That's probably what I loved most about Infinite Playlist: that it was just so heart breakingly honest... The characters, the feelings and emotions explored and the plot line. Books written for teenagers that seem to understand teenagers make the experience even more golden... That's what I loved the most about this book.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is set during one evening in New York, and I read it in one evening too, which made the experience a lot more enjoyable, and meant that I could engage in the story more. It is fast-paced, but not too much so... Cohn and Levithan allow you to keep up with the winding plot, the twists and turns and the complex characters, so you never feel lost. The style in which it was written was engaging and hilarious, and really put me in the mind of the characters. The narrative was split between Nick and Norah, and I could sense a difference in voice and tone when the different characters spoke to the reader. I don't know if the two authors took one protagonist each, because that would explain the brilliant subtle difference in narration that was so engaging for me, but it helped explain the main message within the book. It was extremely frustrating (yet brilliant!) when Nick and Norah felt the same way about each other, yet embodied the same concerns, but they just didn't know the right words with which to tell each other how they felt. I guess if any YA novel out at the moment further incorporates the message that teenagers should just be honest, it's Infinite Playlist. It's less of a novel, more like an inner voice. Every teenager should read it.

The characters of Nick and Norah were complex and intriguing, and the sub-characters were also interesting enough that I was eager to discover their back stories and their connections to Nick and Norah. Everything including the beautiful and mysterious setting to the intricacy of the creation of the characters made Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist a joy to pick up, and I would recommend it to anyone. If a book has changed my perspective on teen romance more, it's this book that has done it. Infinite Playlist has a lighthearted tone (it's hilarious!) but at the same time it is fiercely emotional and at times made me want to cry. It is a novel filled with hidden gems and surprises, and the fact that it is set within one night ensured that I was thoroughly gripped until the very end. 

You can buy Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist here:

WAIT... DID ANYONE ELSE KNOW THAT THIS BOOK IS A FILM??!!??!! I didn't. That's awkward.

You can buy the DVD here:

Until next time :)

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Marcus Sedgwick Takes Over!

Hello again! Yesterday in my post with my giveaway winner I mentioned I had lots of exciting posts coming up this month, and although it isn't technically November yet I still thought I would treat you! Today I have the wonderful Marcus Sedgwick on my blog, giving his top tips for young writers: from how to survive at creative writing courses, to how and what to read, to how you should never be worried if your work doesn't make sense...

But first, let's take a look at the blurb from Marcus Sedgwick's brand new book, Ghosts of Heaven. I am currently half-way through and LOVING it, so a review will be coming soon! In the meantime, take a look at this...

The spiral has existed as long as time has existed.
It's there when a girl walks through the forest, the green air clinging to her skin.
There centuries later in a pleasant green dale, hiding the treacherous waters of Golden Beck that take Anna, who they call a witch.
There on the other side of the world, where a mad poet watches the waves and knows the horrors they hide, and far into the future as Keir Bowman realises his destiny.
Each takes their next step in life.

None will ever go back to the same place.
And so their journeys begin...

Does that intrigue you? If so, read on for Marcus' 'non-tip' tips for young writers, which gives invaluable and vital advice for those wishing to embark on a literary journey of their own:

I hate giving tip for writers. I really do. Not because I don’t want to help other people with their writing, but because there really are no rules for writing. But, as a writer, you frequently get asked to compile lists of tips, or even just a top three, and to be honest, I cringe every time I do it. But here are three (non) tips.
I’m not saying there aren’t some things that it might be helpful to think about. It’s just that they are probably different for everyone – one of the key joys about being a writer is that everyone seems to do it slightly differently. Not only that, but becoming a writer is to set out on a life-long journey of learning – anyone who thinks ‘that’s it, I’m a writer now and I know what I’m doing’ is a) probably fooling themselves, and b) probably a very bad writer. It’s much more common to feel out of your depth, unsure of yourself at times (if not all the time), and wonder why you ever started to try to write in the first place. 

But this is normal, so there’s my first (non) tip; get used to not knowing what you’re doing. Writing is hard enough without adding to your woes by worrying incessantly about it. And yes, of course, you’re going to worry about it; that’s normal. Just don’t worry about worrying about it. That’s not going to help. 
Here’s my second (non) tip – be very suspicious of anyone writing lists of tips (including these ‘non’ tips). I teach on creative writing courses from time to time, so you might say, ‘well, what do you tell your students then?’ and what I tell them is that I’m going to mention lots of ideas and concepts and suggestions as to how to write, but that it’s up to each of them to take away the things that mean something to them, that resonate, that might work in their own writing practice. Writing is unusual in that it’s one of the very few jobs in the world that you teach yourself to do. 
Even if you do go on a creative writing course, I believe it’s up to you to navigate your way through the ocean of (frequently conflicting) ideas that you will come across. Should you plan your book, or not? Should you know how it ends before you start, or not? Should you write every day, or not? Should you set times to write, or word counts, or leave it all free? All of that is up to you. 
What I can say though, is to read as much as you can. If you (seriously) want to be a writer, you probably read a lot anyway. You can add to that reading everything I’m telling you to ignore – all the ‘how tos’ and ‘top tips’ and essays and books and blogs on writing. But remain suspicious. If you think (as I do) that writing a book by writing a part in the middle and then a bit near the start and then the end and then a bit three quarters of the way through sounds like a ridiculously complicated way of making a hard job harder (and you’d be right, of course) then don’t do it. Just because your favourite author imports especially sticky post-it notes form Germany (yes, I do know someone who does that) in order to plan their novels, doesn’t mean you have to. 
My final (non) tip is this: get used to paradoxes. Writing is full of things that don’t make sense. It is often a question of having to do contradictory things; I believe you need to ignore the question of who you’re writing ‘for’, and yet, at the same time, you cannot help but think about how ‘your reader’ is going to interpret something. You want to be original and new and yet you have to be familiar at the same time. You have to forget that every story has already been told a thousand times, and then show us how you can do something new with that story. 
Writing is full of contradictions. It is hard and it is challenging, and yet, when you succeed in achieving a small part of what you set out to achieve, the feeling of contentment is deep and powerful. That’s the drug that keeps us all going, and like anything in life that’s worthwhile, the journey to achieve can be a hard one. But that’s normal, so don’t be afraid. 

Thank you Marcus for being on my blog, and for providing such interesting and insightful 'non-tip' tips for young writers like myself! If you would like to check out Marcus and his many books, here's a link to his website.

If you would like to buy Marcus' latest novel Ghosts of Heaven, click here

Until next time :)

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Giveaway Winner!

I'm sorry for the huge delay in writing any blog posts... This month has been manic to say the very least! In three words: Stressful. University. Application...

But I'm back now! And ready to fill your notifications inbox with plenty of interesting and hopefully exciting blog posts during November! First up is a post announcing the winner of my Leigh Bardugo giveaway competition.

First of all, I'd just like to thank the people who entered, as this was my first ever giveaway and I didn't really know what to expect. I mean, imagine how awkward it would be if nobody entered?! So thank you for contributing, and hopefully this means I can do a lot more giveaways for you!

So now on to the grand winner. I used a random name selector and the winner is...

Margaret Lynch!

Congratulations Margaret, and thank you to the other runners up for participating. For the winner, a big parcel will be coming her way...

Thanks again guys for your continued support!

Until next time :)

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Writing Tip Wednesday- Setting

Hello! Today I'm going to be sharing another writing tip with you- something I am hoping to turn into a regular feature, here on my blog. Previously I've shared my writing tips on characters, and I also did a mini blog series on how I found inspiration to write my novel-in-progress, Frozen Sea, which included a lot of the settings that appear in the book. Today, I am going to talk about finding inspiration to create your own settings, or how to use places you already know, to include in your story.

The first thing you need to think about is, what kind of atmosphere or meaning you are trying to get out of your story. In this sense, the setting is pivotal. If you're trying to write a horror story, and the main setting is a fluffy pink land of marshmallows, the atmosphere vital to a horror story will definitely be lacking. Setting shouldn't be a separate entity from your novel writing. It should be interwoven in every decision you make: your choice of characters, the plot twists, who speaks and the mood you are aiming to create. At the end of the day, every reader will interpret your work differently, so there's no use worrying endlessly that your setting isn't quite right. Start writing, and the place where the action occurs will sort of spring up, as if it had been there all along. In writing, what comes naturally is normally what the readers will love best.

However, once you have a general idea about the setting you want to use, it is worth polishing your ideas and refining what kind of experience you want the readers to get out of it. If your novel is futuristic or dystopian, you have the flexibility and freedom to experiment a bit more. Don't be afraid to take risks. With dystopian novels, it is kind of impossible to be too adventurous. Your readers are looking for a read that will take them to another world... sometimes, quite literally. Using other planets or even galaxies as your setting gives almost limitless opportunities to make your novel whatever you want it to be. If you are writing a historical novel, you need to do a bit more research. Go to your local library, and there will be loads of books you can use as research to make the setting of your historical novel that little bit more vibrant. It may seem like a lot of effort, but your writing will definitely improve as a result.

Finally, the most important thing to remember about setting is that consistency is key. If you don't know your setting that well, you will find yourself getting confused about what it is exactly that you are writing about. The key thing here is to not overcomplicate things. When I'm writing, I tend to limit myself to a few essential places: a café, a school, a church, a park ect... Just so your readers won't become confused by the sheer amount of places you are introducing them to. Remember, your setting is not the main ingredient of your story. It is the vanilla essence (if you will excuse the clichéd metaphor) in a cake made up of various different ingredients, mixed together to make it great. Your readers are analysing your words, not your setting.

I hope you have enjoyed this little post, and please do comment below if this was helpful in any way. Not everyone knows everything, so if you feel as if I have missed out on something important please tell me- you might help somebody else (and myself) in the process!

Until next time :)