Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Artist's Way - A Diary

What do you do when you're powering through your novel edits, then lose the will to write? It's amazing how swiftly a day's reprieve can turn into a week then, before you know it, it's been months since you last looked at your novel and you can't bring yourself to open the document.

My loss of momentum began innocuously enough; blighted by a sinus infection, I took the opportunity to rest and recover. I recovered physically (thanks for asking), but not creatively.

I made the decision to undertake Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way program – a 12 week course in creative recovery. I first heard about it when my colleague, writer and playwright Kris Haddow, diarised his own journey a few years back. It looked mighty intriguing, but it's only recently I felt the time was right for me to do it.

Listen, I know what you're thinking.

Ach, just bloody get on with it. Stop yer nonsense and just get it done. You'd be as well spending the time working on the novel instead of trying to “free your creativity”. 

But I cannae.

I bound myself in stupid expectations and ridiculous criteria until nothing about my writing remotely resembled me. In my quest to learn how to Write Well, I learned how to write like other people, even if their style wasn't my cup of tea. 

That is not what I want. 

That is bollocks.

So hear ye, hear ye, I'm getting myself back on the page.

I shall update thee as and when.


Monday, 28 July 2014

Dae ye mind that summer in 2014?

It's been quiet on the writing front the last couple of months.

To say I've lost my momentum would be a complete understatement. I know I'll have to pull up my wee writer socks soon and, truth be told, I'm gasping to get back into a routine. But I regret nothing. 

I've been enjoying the good weather.

I've had a couple of writerly fixes.

I've been getting oot and aboot.

I started a new job.

Same company, different role (now in digital marketing). My new colleagues left this on my desk on my first day...

I decided to take up running.

My first 5k.

 My 2nd 5k.

I've been reading more.

I finally got a fancy camera, and I have no idea how to use it.

It was Colin & I's 4 year anniversary.

We celebrated by going to T in The Park, where we originally got together.

I'm still adding to my "photos from the squinty bridge" collection.

And, of course, I've been watching the Commonwealth Games, being frequently overcome with utterly irrational pride. Have you been intae it?

How have you all been getting on? Well, I hope! Here's to a productive and lovely August for ye. *raises mocktail glass* chin chin.

Catherine x


Tuesday, 10 June 2014

A Beautiful, Terrible Tempest

Thank God there were no children on the plane.
The pastel shaded stewardess looked bored as she double pointed, scooped the air and feigned a blow into her lifeless jacket. I bet she couldn't wait for her shift to end.

Read the rest of my short story, A Beautiful, Terrible Tempest, on Postcard Shorts by clicking here!

Catherine x

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Monday, 12 May 2014

The clown was suicidal

I'm delighted to announce that my short story Merry Andrew has been published in the Eunoia Review.

You can find it by clicking here. I'd love to know what you think of it.

Take care
Catherine x ◦

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Life in Pictures April 2014

Have you all had a good April? Many Easter eggs did ye get?

I had six days off for the Easter holidays, and I done nothing. I'm not even sorry... it was bloody fantastic.

Some of my favourite things this month...

This hilarious comedy play, Party Suzie. It's back in May, go see it!

This was the only event I attended at this year's Aye Write festival. I'm sufficiently pleased with my lot: Bernard MacLaverty is a fantastic writer and speaker, and I've just finished breaking my heart to his novel Cal (a must-read).

One of my writing group friends demanded I read The Panopticon, by Jenni Fagan, and I'm so glad I did. Belter of a story! I devoured this book in two days, made all the better with the sun in my garden!

Looking after my 5 week old godson, Corey. Overnight, no less! He was the perfect angel, and I didn't want to give him back. He's sooo teeny! :')

The weather is finally starting to improve... long may it continue!

More food blog shenanigans, if you're intae yer grub. Guess who figured out how to make collages?

That's plenty for now. I hope April was good to you all. Lets hope May gives you even more of what you love.

Take care
Catherine x ◦

Monday, 7 April 2014

My Writing Process

I've been asked by the lovely Vikki Gemmell to write about my writing process, as part of a bloghop that's currently sweeping through the writerly blogisphere. Vikki is a fantastic writer; I especially loved her poignant flash fiction piece At The Fair. You can see her writing process by clicking here, it's a most enjoyable read.

Without further ado, here are my own answers:

What am I working on?

Having written many first drafts, I finally committed to writing a "proper" novel back in September 2012. It goes by the name of Brothers, but the story has changed so dramatically, the title isn't really relevant any more. Despite distracting myself with different projects and many other attempts to sabotage my own efforts, it's slowly but surely developing into an actual novel.

It's a story of three Glaswegian families woven together through tragic circumstances. Expect affairs, deathbeds, unwanted children, unemployment, drugs. You know, a romantic comedy. Also expect plenty of Glesgae patter, debauchery and frolics, and maybe even a few tears (there's been plenty of tears writing it!).

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

It's different because it's being written by me, not other people. Last year, I went to a writing class and we were all asked to write a story using the opening sentence: The clown was suicidal. You have no idea how different the results were; no two stories were remotely alike!

My work is the result of how I see the world and I only hope that vision can be enjoyed by whoever reads me. I hope that doesn't read as arsey as it sounds in my head.

As it happens... I transformed my suicidal clown into a short story, Merry Andrew, to be published by Eunoia Review next month!

Why do I write what I do?

I like to write about people's natures and about how no-one is exempt from hardship. I write about the complexities of real, unglamourous life because that's what seems to interest me most. I believe compassion can be found in the murkiest waters, no matter how infested it is with absolute turds of humanity. I didn't consciously seek it out as a theme, but there ye go.

How does my writing process work?

I envy respectfully loathe writers who just pick up a pen, start from page one and don't stop until their novel is complete. I suspect they are At It.

Having toyed around with many a method, I appear to have come up with a bizarre analogy for my writing process. An anatomy themed one, of course.

(Photo by OtisArchives 3)

First, there's the skeleton. You can call it the outline if you want but I think it's more than that – it's the outline and the story chunks (main plot movements) and the scene/chapter structure. These are my bones. It took me a long time to arrange these bones into a functional skeleton for this WIP.

Then there's the next bit, which is what I'm doing now – it's the sinew, muscle, tissue, veins, organs, tendons. This is my characterisation* and fleshing out of scenes. I'm trying to paint a good picture of it all for the reader with sensory detail, suspense, foreshadowing etc., all the while keeping true to my story. My writers group is invaluable for helping me with this bit.

That's all in preparation for the final edit, which is the skin. Boak, I know.

Then I'll send it out to test readers and we can discuss hair and make-up, dahhhlings.

On a more practical level, my writing process involves getting to work an hour early, at 6am, to work on the novel. I usually do the same on tea/lunch breaks and a little bit in the evenings (although I'm usually out of gas by then). I have Mondays off work at the moment, so that's my proper, glorious Writing Day. I try not to write at the weekend, as there is a life to be lived and people to enjoy.

*I got to know my characters a bit more by writing a 50k word stream of consciousness walk-around of my characters for NaNoWriMo 2013. The jury is still out as to whether it was a vital part of building the story, or an extreme method of procrastination.

So now you know.

I have asked two very talented writers to take the reins for next week's Writing Process:

Caro's first novel Absolution was shortlisted for the New Blood Dagger (an annual award given by the British Crime Writers' Association). Her second novel Singing to the Dead was long listed for the Theakston's crime novel of the year. Her next two novels, Dark Water and The Blood of Crows were published to critical acclaim. Book six, The Night Hunter will be published in June 2014. Her novels are translated into seven languages.

Helen MacKinven writes contemporary Scottish fiction and has an MLitt in Creative Writing. Her second novel Buy, Buy Baby made it to the short list of the Hookline Books novel competition for students and graduates of MA writing courses.Several of her short stories have been published and she is currently working on her third novel. She lives in a small rural village in North Lanarkshire with her husband, two sons, two dogs and ten chickens.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my writing process. What's yours? Do share, I LOVE hearing about this kind of stuff.

Take care
Catherine x

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

A to Z of Creative Writing Warm-Ups

Helloooooo, just popping in to say I won't be participating in this year's A to Z Blogging Challenge (as much as it pains me!), as I have to focus all my writerly efforts on the novel. It's getting there, slowly but surely!

Last year, my theme was an A to Z of Creative Writing Warm-Ups. A few writers told me they'd love to have the warm-ups in a whole, complete format, so I have lovingly compiled it all into a PDF file for your viewing/writing pleasure.

To access the PDF, click here (I would recommend saving the file to your desktop for future offline use).

This PDF has a total of 158 warm-ups! Choose from:

  • 26 photo prompts 
  • 26 mind maps 
  • 26 freewriting exercises 
  • One personal questionnaire 
  • 79 sentence starts

Why don't you try a wee five minute warm-up at the start of your next writing session and let me know how you get on with it?

Take care
Catherine x