YA Shot Interview with Kerry Drewery

Today on the blog, as part of the #YAShot2017 blog tour, I have a fab interview with Kerry Drewery, talking about her Cell 7 series.

When did you first get the idea for your Cell 7 series?

I first started thinking about Cell 7 way back in 2014. I wanted to write something exploring the death penalty, but as we don’t have the death penalty here, I started exploring different ways I could do it.

Did you always plan for it to be a trilogy or did it grow as you wrote it?

I initially wrote it as a standalone, but there were a lot of unanswered questions. Having the space to explore it over three books and really flesh out all the situations and characters was wonderful.

The story is written from several points of view – did you have a favourite to write?

Not really. I enjoyed writing the sections from Martha’s point of view because I could really get in her head and explore what she was thinking. In the first book I especially like the sections with Martha and Eve – I like their relationship.

It was great to be able to write in different ways though, and I did especially enjoy the script. It’s just a different way of writing – it feels more immediate.

Scenes from the Death is Justice TV show played a key part in the story – what made you include these rather than showing a character watching the show?

I originally tried writing them in third person, but it was way to clunky and far too much ‘he said, she said’ – it just didn’t work. Writing it from the point of view of someone watching it would’ve been much the same, and it would’ve been more removed from the characters. I think that distance would’ve pushed the reader too far away from the story.

There’s some pretty heart-wrenching scenes across the series – which was the hardest to write?

There was one particular scene in Final 7 which was very hard to write, and I did think long and hard about it. But it was right for the story – it had to be done. I don’t want to say too much and accidentally give spoilers!

The end of Final 7 is a bit ominous – do you envision a happy ending for Martha and her friends?

The whole trilogy was always Martha’s story. Although not a typically sweetness and light ending, the end of Final 7 left her in a much better place than the beginning of Cell 7, and I feel was more realistic. That point, as far as I see it, was the end of her story.

And here are my quick-fire questions to round off with:

What are you reading at the moment?

The Goose Road by Rowena House

Favourite book as a child?

The Swish of the Curtain by Pamela Brown

Favourite writing drink and snack?

Coffee and custard creams!

5 desert island books?

Oh that’s hard! Errmmm…

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

Nothing by Janne Teller

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

But ask me tomorrow and it’ll probably be different!

Favourite place to read?

Curled up on the sofa in front of the fire, with a cup of coffee.

Any hidden talents?

I do triathlons. This September I’ll be representing GB (for my age group) in the long distance championship in Madrid. That’s 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and a marathon.

What fictional world would you love to live in?

I’d probably go back in time and live in the world of Swallows and Amazons! Messing about on the river in the summer with no cares in the world!

Thanks so much to Kerry for the interview. You can find Kerry on Facebook here, and on Twitter @KerryDrewery

Also, the lovely folks at Bonnier Zaffre have offered a copy of Cell 7 for one lucky winner! Enter the Rafflecopter below to be in with a chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And finally, a huge thanks to the whole YA Shot Team for organising their amazing events and this blog tour! You can check out more of the stops on the YA Shot website here.

Book Review: Write (Phil Daoust)

Publisher: Guardian Books

Release Date: September 24th 2012

Summary (from Goodreads):

Find your voice. Feel inspired. Love your characters.
Let the world’s greatest contemporary authors share the joy of writing and guide you as you work.
With insights and inspiration from a wide range of writers, including:

Martin Amis
Diana Athill
Margaret Atwood
Zoë Heller
MJ Hyland
PD James
Hanif Kureishi
Hilary Mantel
Andrew Miller
Terry Pratchett

and many more, Write! has everything you need to get your creative juices flowing.

Review:

I’ve been slowly reading this book over nearly a year. It’s compiled of writing advice from a ton of amazing authors, and I’ve been picking it up before a writing session and reading a different bit of advice each time, just to encourage myself and get the creative juices flowing.

I especially enjoyed the first section, where authors give their tips for writing, my favourite being Neil Gaiman’s very direct advice – it’s one I might print out and stick to my desk so I can reread it whenever I’m feeling stuck or uninspired.

The second half of the book had authors talking about writing their books and getting them published. I loved Sue Townsend’s essay about writing Adrian Mole: when she was asked to send a synopsis, she didn’t know what to write and sent a school report for Adrian Mole instead, and got her book deal off the strength of that. I didn’t find this section quite as interesting, mostly because I didn’t know a lot of the authors or their books: they’re probably quite famous ones, but I mostly read YA and so wasn’t really familiar with them. It was still great to read about their inspiration and publication journeys though.

This is a great book to read for aspiring writers, especially when you’re feeling uninspired or need that extra bit of motivation.

4

On Winning NaNoWriMo 2016

This year I decided to take part in NaNoWriMo for the first time.

It’s something I’ve always planned on doing but the timing has never been right and I’ve put it off. The timing wasn’t brilliant this year either but I decided just to go for it.

And hey, it worked. 50,000 words in 30 days. I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty impressed with myself. I didn’t think I’d make it.

It was a tough month to make it work because half way through, I went back to work. It’s been tough adjusting to a new routine for all of us: Little Moore is used to spending every day with me, and now he has some with me, two with Daddy, one with Nonna and one at nursery. It’s disrupted us all a bit and we’re still finding our feet.

It’s also been a bad month sleeping wise for Little Moore. After sleeping the best he ever has while on holiday at the end of October, he’s taken two steps back and is now really hard to settle and wakes up every couple of hours in the night. It was tough when he did that before and I could still nap with him the day time, but it’s even tougher now I have to go to work. We’ve just found out he has foot and mouth disease (common in children as well as sheep, apparently) so I’m hoping he’ll get better once that’s cleared up.

Anyway, sometimes, after spending a couple of hours putting him to bed after work, I’d finally sit down and not want to write at all. But I still did it. I hit my word count most days, and did some extra in the beginning while I was keen to give me some leeway for later on. I downloaded Google Docs onto my phone, which helped me to write, as I could do it anywhere rather than having to sit down with my laptop.

While I’m glad I did it, and now have the best part of my novel written, I’m not sure I would do it again. The pressure of writing like that isn’t for me: sure, I got the words out, but I don’t think a lot of them are very good, and I really hated doing it sometimes. I think I’d rather write every day with a less strict word count/schedule to stick to, and that way I’ll enjoy the writing and hopefully write better too.

Still, this is something I’m proud of and really happy I did. I’d recommend giving it a go, even if it’s just to find that it’s not for you.

YAShot Guest Post: Rachel McIntyre – Where I Work

Today on the blog, as part of the #YAShot2016 blog tour, I have Rachel McIntyre talking about where she writes.

Welcome Rachel!

Finding a place to write used to be as tricky a task as finding time to write. When I started ‘Me and Mr J’, I was writing purely for fun; grabbing spare minutes between childcare and work. The same went for a space. I’d set my laptop up on the dining room table in among the piles of ironing-in-waiting and random stacks of toys and try to work.

Fast forward a couple of years, I’ve moved house and finally got a dedicated study just for me and I love it! It’s filled with things I’ve collected over the years, like my vintage glass birds and the snow globes I buy from every new country I visit. And the books…I arranged them all in colour groups because a) I think it looks good and b) it helps me to find them quickly. I’m terrible at remembering titles, but I’m great at visualising the covers. The only downside is the gaps when I lend them out to people and yes, I have chosen books based on the spine colour. But that’s not as bad as it sounds as it’s encouraged me to pick up new reads I might not normally choose. I have overspill bookcases other rooms, but even so, the books do creep onto the floor in here.

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Moving on to my desk…I was a bit unsure about the chair from Dwell, but it’s actually really comfy. I used to get a really bad back from hours hunched over the keyboard and it does seem to have sorted that. I don’t like much clutter on my desk as I find it distracting, but I do have the lovely Minecraft mug my son painted to keep my pens tidy and a disco light, well, just because. I tend to write on my PC more than my laptop as it’s not wifi enabled which has completely halted my online- shopping-not-working tendencies.

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The two coffee tables are trunks that double up as storage where I keep all my notebooks- I still write a lot by hand- and I have a big portable whiteboard stashed away under the sofa but I like to keep all my notes either on paper or on my PC. I’ve tried Post-its on the wall and index cards, but it doesn’t really work for me right now. Maybe I’ll try again in the future.

And that’s where I work! Thank you for coming to visit, Maia.

And thank you for having me Rachel. I have such bookshelf envy now!

Check out my reviews of Rachel’s two fabulous books, Me & Mr Jand The Number One Rule for Girls.

Book Review: 2K to 10K – Writing Faster, Writing Better and Writing More of What You Love (Rachel Aaron)

Pages: 64

Release Date: October 7th 2012

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Have you ever wanted to double your daily word counts? Do you sometimes feel like you’re crawling through your story? Do you want to write more every day without increasing the time you spend writing or sacrificing quality? It’s not impossible, it’s not even that hard. This is the book explaining how, with a few simple changes, I boosted my daily writing from 2000 words to over 10k a day, and how you can too.”

Expanding on her highly successful process for doubling daily word counts, this book, a combination of reworked blog posts and new material, offers practical writing advice for anyone who’s ever longed to increase their daily writing output. In addition to updated information for Rachel’s popular 2k to 10k writing efficiency process, 5 step plotting method, and easy editing tips, this new book includes chapters on creating characters that write their own stories, practical plot structure, and learning to love your daily writing. Full of easy to follow, practical advice from a commercial author who doesn’t eat if she doesn’t produce good books on a regular basis, 2k to 10k focuses not just on writing faster, but writing better, and having more fun while you do it.

Review:

I’ve been reading a few books on writing lately and when this one popped up as being read by some of my Goodreads friends, I thought I’d give it a go. Who doesn’t want to go from 2K to 10K?!

Aaron describes her method for making your writing sessions more productive and greatly increasing your word count. It’t not just about churning out words either, but focusses on how to get quality as well as increase the quantity. As well as her method she’s developed, Aaron talks about her own plotting process and how to keep editing as painless as possible too.

Aaron’s method is actually pretty simple and sounds kind of obvious when you read it, but I realised I wasn’t doing these things and it could really be holding my writing back. The bit I thought was the most useful was the Knowledge part: knowing what you’re going to write before you sit down and write it. I’ve always been a bit of a pantser and it gets me into trouble when it comes to editing or just having  plot that makes sense… Aside from plotting on a larger scale, Aaron suggests you plan what you’re going to write in a session before you do it, so you’re not doing the hard part as you’re writing and making it up as you go along.

As I’ve been stuck in a bit of editing hell recently, I was really interested in the section on editing. It made me realise that a lot of my problems are plotting based – again, another problem with being a pantser – and that editing would be made easier if I plotted better (good work Captain Hindsight, but at least it’ll help me next time). I also liked the idea of editing being a skill just as writing is, that you should practice every day.

I found this book really helpful and I think it’s one that I’ll be dipping in and out of frequently. The only drawback was there were quite a few typos/spelling and grammatical errors, and that irritated me, especially when she was talking about editing your work/checking for errors etc!

While an individual’s writing processes are subjective and not everything works for everyone, there’s a lot here that really makes sense and I’d definitely recommend giving her suggestions a go. It’s a really cheap Kindle book and I think there’ll be something in there for everyone.

4

 

Camp NaNoWriMo and Starting Afresh

This year I decided to take part in Camp NaNoWriMo with a bunch of fellow bloggers/writers. I’ve never done any kind of NaNoWriMo activities for various reasons – finishing my dissertation, finishing a novel, being heavily pregnant and commuting 5 hours a day etc – but this year felt like a good time to start.

I hadn’t heard of the camp stuff before but when it was explained to me it sounded perfect, as you don’t have to write an 80,000 word novel as you do in November: for camp you can set your own goals, whether it’s a word count for writing or finishing off some editing, which is exactly what I wanted to do.

I set a goal of 50,000 words, which is 50 hours of active editing. I thought it sounded reasonable and that by the end of the months I’d have finally finished editing my first novel, as that’s been going on forever now.

Sadly, it was not the case. I got a bit behind. And then a bit more behind. And by that point, it was just impossible to catch up, unless I didn’t sleep and spent most of the day ignoring Little Moore! Sadly maternity leave doesn’t mean free time to do whatever you like.

I was still pleased with my progress though. I did about 25 hours of editing, half my target but more than I probably would have in a normal month. But I did find myself resenting doing the work. I don’t know if that was because of the increasingly impossible target or the fact that editing is bloody hard work, or just that this novel sometimes feels like it’s beyond help.

So I’ve quit. And it feels good.

I’ve not given up forever, but I think it’s a good idea to take a break from this one for now. There’s a lot that needs sorting to make it readable to someone other than me or Nathan, and I don’t feel like I have the brain power or editing skills for it right now. And it was start to make me wonder if writing wasn’t for me after all. I know editing is a huge part of being a writer, and I was struggling so much it was starting to feel like I never wanted to write again.

Instead of editing my old work, I’ve started something new. It’s a story I’ve been mulling around in my head for years, as is often the case. I’ve written a couple of chapters before for my degree, although the idea has changed a lot since then. One day I got out a pretty notebook and scribbled down a page, then put it away. I did the same the next day, and the next.

I’ve been doing a page a day for a couple of weeks now, and although it’s not fast moving, it’s writing and I’m enjoying it and that’s what feels important right now. I know at some point I need to sit down and plan where it’s going, and hopefully some day I’ll have to sit down and hate editing it, but for now, I feel like a writer again, and that’s good.

Writing an Adaptation

So, the secret project that I’ve hinted at in my last few writing posts was… an adaptation!

The reason it was a secret was I wanted it to be a present for Mr Moore – it ended up being a Father’s Day present, although I think it was originally intended for a birthday one but I didn’t finish in time…

And the reason it was a present is that the project was a short story adapted from a script which Nathan wrote. It’s a sci-fi short film he wrote when we were both in uni. I loved the story so much – something about it just captivated me and I was fascinated every time he spoke about it. I was desperate to be a part of the film but unfortunately it hasn’t been made yet (I’m still hoping!) so instead I decided to get involved in the story in another way.

I found it really interesting to work from a script. Normally with short stories I just run with an idea and see where it goes, while with longer projects I’ll work from a rough outline. Having a script to adapt felt like working from a really detailed plan: each line was like a mini idea I needed to expand upon. It made it super easy to write and I’ve decided to try a planning method like this next time I’m working on a novel. I never plan enough and it can make writing a real struggle, so I’m looking forward to experimenting with this.

Writing this short story also helped me with giving edit notes on the script for Nathan. I did a lot of ‘gap filling’ when translating this to a story, and that helped me to look at the script in another way and point out bits that didn’t make sense/needed tweaking that I hadn’t noticed before.

This was a really different way of working for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I really hope Nathan enjoys the story and that the edit notes on the script help him out too. I’ll probably give the story another edit with his notes once he’s read it and then maybe be brave and think about sharing it with some other people… 🙂

My Week in Writing #2

Weekly goal: 7 hours of writing time – 1 hour per day

Monday – After last week’s disaster with Little Moore’s bedtime, he went off without a fuss and I did half an hour editing and half an hour of writing exercises.

Tuesday – I was really not motivated today and couldn’t face editing, but I did get an hour of writing exercises in instead.

Wednesday – Half an hour writing exercises complete. Meant to do some editing but didn’t so slap on the wrist for me.

Thursday – I was a bit naughty and didn’t time when I was working, but I did do a lot of writing exercises in a cafe for about 3 hours on and off, so we’ll call that an hours work 🙂

Friday – Again, I didn’t do any timing. I found it a bit difficult as I was grabbing bits of time here and there, but I did do some good planning exercises from my writing book so I was pleased with the progress.

Saturday – Less pleased with the work today. I only did a small amount, definitely not an hours worth of work. I seem to get more lax the more the week goes on – I need to keep the motivation up!

Sunday – Big fail today, spent most of the day with the family and feeling a bit crap so only got a little done.

I did a lot of writing exercises this week, and they’re all from Get Started in Young Adult Fiction by Juliet Mushens. This was a Mother’s Day present, along with some other writing books and I’ve wanted it for ages. It felt a bit odd doing these exercises at first, as I’ve not done this kind of thing since uni, but it’s good to get the creative juices flowing and look at my writing in a different way.

The exercises are also helping me to work through my problems with the WIP at the moment, mainly plotting troubles and just a lack of planning. I’m hoping by the end of the book I’ll have another draft done, one that I’m a lot happier with.

This has been a better week for writing than last week. I’m hoping as the habit grows, I’ll keep getting better and doing more work each week. We’re away for a few days next week so I’m worried I won’t get my work done on those two days, but we shall see!

My Week in Writing

After writing a post about it and feeling oh so motivated, my week in writing did not start well.

Weekly goal: 11 hours writing time.That’s 1 hour per day when Nathan is working mornings and 2 hours when he works evenings/is off work.

Monday – Little Moore was not enjoying the heat and I spent all night trying to get him to sleep. By the time he’d finally gone off (midnight-ish) I was exhausted and had only got 15 minutes in.

Tuesday – Very fussy baby for the morning, and in the evening I was naughty and played the Battlestar Galactica board game instead of writing, so I’m going to need to make up for that.

Wednesday – Despite what it becoming Little Moore’s usual fussiness at bedtime, I managed to get an hour in. It was a day off though so I should have done two…

Thursday – I was bright eyed and bush tailed and got an hour done in the morning while Little Moore and Mr Moore were still in bed.

Friday – I got a good 24 minutes in before the little one woke up. I also finished my first draft of the short story I’m writing, so that was very exciting. Then the evening was a fail as I was overcome with a massive cold :/

Saturday – Zero. Having a cold and guests round are my excuses but I’m disappointed I didn’t get anything done. I think finishing my draft worked against me as well because I didn’t have that drive to go upstairs and finish something. I need to decide what I’m doing next.

Sunday – I got my hour in, despite the cold and a fussy baby after bath time. I started working through some old notes and editing my current WIP (whilst cursing past-me for not writing legible/intelligent notes)

So my writing week didn’t go very well all in all. I don’t like failing at anything and I kind of don’t want to publish this and admit I did bad. But hopefully it’ll encourage me to do better next week.

I’m going to adjust my weekly goal slightly to an hour a day for the whole week and see how that goes. I was maybe a little ambitious before, so I’m going to start off small and aim to increase when I’ve gotten into good habits.

To end on a positive, I finished the first draft of a short story I’ve been working on for a while. I think forcing an hours work of actual writing definitely helped me finish this off. I’ll be writing a post about this one in a few weeks time so keep an eye out!

Choosing to Write

One of my resolutions this year was to write a little something every day.

Well…that hasn’t happened. It was probably a little ambitious, considering everything that’s happened (moving house again, having the Little Moore and all the lack of time that comes from him) but I don’t want to give up on it completely. It’s tempting with resolutions to give up once you’ve stumbled a bit, but I’m determined to keep going, and write every day I can from now on, or as close as I can get.

I read a post recently from Indigo’s Dragon author Sofi Croft about how she makes time to write (check it out here) and one point in particular got me thinking. Sofi said she chooses to write, and I think that’s a key point. I have so many other things I want/need to be doing, and if I really want to write then I need to prioritise writing over some of those activities. Obviously some things come first and have to be done: looking after the Little Moore is top of the agenda, plus things like cooking and bits of housework. But there’s plenty of other things I do that could be sacrificed for writing, like watching TV or reading.

Along with choosing to write, I need goals too. If I just say ‘do some writing’ I know it might not get done, or I might do a bare minimum amount. But if I set a target to reach, whether it’s daily or weekly, it’s more likely to get done. I used to do this by word counts, when I was finishing my WIP, but now I’m on the editing stage I don’t think that’s the best idea.

My partner mentioned an article he read about setting an amount of time to work – say two hours – and then recording when you’re working to make sure that gets done. You only record the time you’re working, so if you start internet browsing or take a phone call, then you mark the time and don’t start recording again until you’re actually working.

Nathan spoke about using sticky notes and writing down the times that you stop and start, but I’ve decided to use the stop watch on my phone instead, and pause it every time I’m not working.

I think this will help me get the work in, and show me that I can fit in bits of work here and there. I know in an ideal world I’d like to have hours and hours to sit down in my study, but with a baby to look after, the reality is that I’ll have to squeeze it in whenever and wherever I can.

I’m also going to do a small post once a week to record my progress and talk a little bit about writing each week. I’ve set a goal of one hour of work on Nathan’s working days, and two hours when he’s not. I had originally wanted to aim higher but it’s just not going to happen when baby duty calls!

I’ve tried this method for the past two days and got my hour in both times, which has equalled roughly 2000 words a day on the short story I’m working on. This is a bit of a secret project at the moment – hiding it from Nathan and he reads my blog – so I won’t go into details yet. But it’s something I’ve not tried before and I’m enjoying this way of writing a lot.

I’ve laid all this out and am publishing it mostly to just give me the motivation to stick to it. Fingers crossed it works!