How to fall in love with writing again

EMGN-Crying-22.pngI hate writing.

At least right now I do. It’s not that I don’t have ideas. Believe me. The problem is that I dwell too much on the end result. I want the end result – a finished, polished story – right now.

All that other gumpf in between – the typing, the self-doubt, the numerous, numerous revisions – makes my teeth itch. Sometimes when I’m in the thick of that stuff, I enjoy it. Right now, I loathe it, which means that I unfortunately loathe a rather sizable part of the writing process.

So many writers I speak to deal with the conundrum of loving writing and hating it at the same time. So what can we do about it?

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A Cuppa and Catchup with author and essayist Holly Raychelle Hughes!

It’s time for another Cuppa and Catchup! Today we have the lovely Holly Raychelle Hughes on the blog. Holly’s a fiction writer and essayist who has written about the many pitfalls for people trying to get by in the film production and creative industry, as well as her own painful experiences. She wants to see a safer, more respectful Hollywood, where everyone is treated with dignity and can speak freely of their troubles without fear. She’s also my friend and fellow Pitch to Publication comrade. 🙂

15823503_10211770471400134_6676046960364605008_nHi there, Holly! Thank you for stopping by the blog 🙂 Tell us a little about yourself and what you’re working on at the moment.

Thanks so much for inviting me to visit, Rachel! I’m a writer juggling querying and revisions on a young adult manuscript called DEAR DEAD DRUNK GIRL.

When I’m not hitting refresh on my inbox, I’m working on character development for my next young adult book. I also I try to write several essays a month, too. And when I’m not writing I’m in my office working as an intuitive healer and medium.

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A Cuppa and Catchup with author and illustrator Meg Cowley!

Every now and then I’ll invite an author, artist or other creative type-person onto the blog for a quick chat about their work, their future projects and just general life gubbins. To kick off my ‘Cuppa and Catchup’ series, here’s my lovely friend and Yorkshire-based author and artist Meg Cowley!

  1. Hi there, Meg! Thank you for stopping by the blog 🙂 Tell us a little about yourself and what you’re working on at the moment.
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Such Meg. Much pretty. Wow. ^_^

I’m an author and illustrator from Yorkshire, England, and I love all things fantasy, magic and dragons! Fantasy heavily inspires everything I write, and fantasy and nature inspire my art. (What is fantasy anyway, but nature, embellished!)

Right now, I’m drafting the Shattered Crown (Caledan#3) and plotting the first in my next series, which will be an Arthurian retelling with a twist! In terms of illustration, I’m planning a full-colour, romantic, illustrated retelling of the traditional Arthurian tale, which will also be available in black and white/greyscale as a colouring book.

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Book spotlight – The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

514t9r2z6slTim Powers is famed for his historical fantasy novels, specifically his ability to pick a seldom-explored pocket of time and create a rich narrative within it. One such book is The Anubis Gates, a fast-paced Victorian adventure following Brendan Doyle, a sharp-witted historian who must rely on more than his knowledge of the future if he’s to escape the past alive.

One thing I love about Tim’s writing is how immersive it is, and how organic the settings feel. He has a rare ability to create a vast swell of characters that are fully realised and beautifully fleshed out. In The Anubis Gates you’ll find Horrabin, a truly terrifying nightmare-clown of a creature and one of my favourite literary villains. As this book came out in the eighties, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s to blame for many a reader’s clown phobia! I guess ultimately, one of the endearing qualities of The Anubis Gates is how strongly you feel for the characters. You either love them, loathe them, or in Horrabin’s case, a bit of both!

There’s quite a tragic edge to one of the magic systems in The Anubis Gates. Brendan gets caught up with a character called Dog-Face Joe. Without giving too much away, the myth of Dog-Face Joe leaves few survivors in its wake, and you feel a heavy sense of gloom for anyone who falls foul of it. There are real consequences here, a real alchemy of sorts for everyone who gets mixed up in the story’s dark arts.

Some readers are skeptical of books with multiple POVs, but Tim moves nimbly between several characters’ heads in quick succession without making the writing feel choppy or superficial. Indeed, being able to move between completely contrasting characters gave the story more definition, in my opinion.

I see a lot of talk about having a message in your writing. In a world where it seems to be all about some lesson writers want their readers to learn. It’s refreshing to reach back a couple of decades and read a book that focuses solely on entertaining and dazzling you for a few hundred pages. I cried at the end of The Anubis Gates, because it’s beautiful and cathartic and neatly wrapped up, and because I would like to see more books of this breed out there in the world. Luckily, Tim’s furiously working away on more stories as we speak, and has an impressive back catalogue to peruse. Don’t mind if I do! 

Read this book if you:

  • Love classic adventure stories such as Indiana Jones or The Mummy
  • Love historical fiction, specifically the Victoria era or post-Enlightenment
  • Love flawed, multi-dimensional characters
  • Enjoy multiple POVS and no one can tell you different, damnit!

Have you read The Anubis Gates or any other of Tim’s books? Tell me all about it in the comments 🙂

Be the pebble: the small acts that bring big changes

heart-rhinestones-sand-beach-122445We’re not even a month into 2017, and it’s already established itself as the year of huge, sweeping events. People in their thousands are waging war against the things that wound, disgust and enrage them. They’re speaking out. Their feet are coming down. They’re taking no more.

Sadness fell heavy upon me while reading Tobias Stone’s 2016 article on how history will shed light on what comes after Trump and Brexit. Stone is deeply intimate with human history, and spoke of how we “have a habit of going into phases of mass destruction, generally self-imposed to some extent or another”.

There’s no denying that history is riddled with echoes. Some may ask why we even try to rise above our innate hostility, especially if we’re destined to fall prey to it every half-century. 

On the bus home, I came across another article. One that melted my dejection like dawn upon the frost.

Celeste Ng, author of EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU,  broke my heart with her 20 small acts of resistance list on Teen Vogue. It’s part survival kit, part love letter to anyone who knows we must do better despite history’s insistence that it’s beyond us. It’s for anyone who knows we can rise above the playbook of years past, and work alchemy through our outrage into something that truly transforms lives.

It’s for anyone who knows that all great stories start with a #smallact.

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50 productive things writers can do in five minutes

harshestofcriticsramonaDo you ever daydream about all the productive things you’re going to achieve once you get some free time? That short story you’re definitely going to write? Those query letters you’re going to send off? That pile of books you’re going to blast through? You’re finally sorting your life out, and it’s going to be GLORIOUS.

Saturday morning rolls around, and you’re either still snoring your head off or skulking around the house like a pyjama-clad zombie. The rest of the weekend’s filled with ‘must-do’s’ that get in the way of what you really want to do. We find ourselves feeling like crap, again, because we felt like we’ve made zero progress towards our writing dreams. AGAIN.

First, stop beating yourself up. Life demands a lot from us, even in our spare time. We’re busier than we’ve ever been, and there’s more noise in our ears and eyes and heads than there’s ever been. Every minute is overloaded. How can that not get exhausting?

This world keeps us busy, there’s no doubt about that. However, there’s a big difference between being busy and being productive. The good news is, you could have only five minutes to spare, and you can still get something done that’s worth your time. Here are fifty ideas to get you started…

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Book spotlight: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

I didn’t expect to like this little Swedish tale at all, let alone love it. A story about a grumpy old curmudgeon who hates cats and thinks most young people are wastes of space? Boy, I thought. Sounds like a right casserole of laughs. 

My friend James of Short Story Cast has excellent taste in books, however. If he enjoyed A Man Called Ove, then it was definitely worth a gander…
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