Trying to beat Writer’s Block

I am hoping to return to a somewhat regular blog schedule soon… but for now, I thought you might like to see my latest attempt to break the dreaded block.

I can feel the words bubbling just under my skin, itching to come out, but sometimes the most difficult thing for me is deciding what to write. And also daring to make the first mark on the page without judging the things I produce!

This evening I was listening to some beautiful music by Ásgeir, an Icelandic musician. I don’t understand Icelandic, so I have no idea if I was getting the intended emotion from most of his songs, but they’re gorgeous all the same. I decided to write whatever came to my mind just for the duration of that song, and here are the four snippets I produced. I’m thinking I can give this a try as a writing warm-up again in the future.

Glaeður – Ásgeir

This definitely comes from all the Loki fanfic I’ve been reading recently…

If I keep walking through these corridors, following you, will you turn again and look at me with that smile upon your face? Will you say things that sound like you’re irritated with me but the twinkle in your eye suggests the opposite? Will you trust me? Will I deserve it?

If I debase myself, falling for my whole life, becoming the lowest I can be, will you be the world that I conquer? Will you be enough for me? Will I be enough for you, or am I just another tool, to be discarded once used? Will it matter enough to me by then?

I have never been a quitter. I’ve survived everything that was thrown at me, I’ve rolled with every punch and taken every path to life. But if you turned away, I think I might close my eyes.

Sátt – Ásgeir

If I’m lucky something like this might end up in Drifting, the book I’m currently planning out! I’ve got to write the proposal and send it to my editor to see if she wants to contract it for book number 3!

My arms around you, we’re swaying in the moonlight. The sun’s warmth still radiates from your skin, I can smell it on your shoulders though the twilight breeze cools my back. My cheek is pressed to yours, so soft and round. I nuzzle you and you smile. I can feel your dimples pressed against my face.

Your hand is loosely clasped in mine. I should feel like I’m in a spotlight but instead it feels like I’m dancing out of the door, dancing right out onto the beach where the waves lap against our feet, bare to the sand. You’re here, and I can hardly believe you’re in my arms. I don’t think I’ll ever let you go. If I can read the annals of time and learn, I’d find out how to keep you here, your heart pressed against mine as the music swells. You smile and I can barely believe my luck.

Lifandi vatnið – Ásgeir

This started off as one thing and then became another. There is a LOT to unpack in this snippet. Yes, I am in therapy thanks. This may become part of a book that’s been buzzing around in my head, about the monster under the bed who rescues/kidnaps an abused child.

I never meant to hurt you. I can’t help my nature, I was born to betray and cause harm to those around me. To forge from the fires of my cruelty. To be the monster they must defeat in order to become the hero. That’s all I am, isn’t it? I am the creature beneath the bed. 

But there are monsters worse than I. The one that hurts you when I only threaten to do so, the one who pulls you from your sleep. I stand in the shadow and bear witness to your pain, and you catch my eye, reach out with every fibre of your being and I betray you by letting it fall short. I am not the hero.

One night you crawl from your bed and sob beneath it. You willingly come to my domain, the darkness you once feared above all. You crawl closer to me, your demon.

What can I do but take you in my arms and whisk you far away?

Hringsól – Ásgeir

I had a romance set in Kenya in mind for this one. Think Rafiki, maybe.

We can hold our heads high. We meet eyes and smile, link hands and walk onwards. I don’t feel like the world is looking at me quite so much because you’re at my side, though logically I know that they may be looking at me more for just that reason. We are illegal. We’re wrong.

I’ve never felt so right.

The Willing – coming soon!

It’s been so painfully long since I last wrote. Let’s just say work has been a major thorn and leave it at that >_<

But now exam time is pretty much done and my poor students and I can breathe again, I’m back on the writing wagon!

Most exciting for me, and something I’ve wanted to write about for ages but haven’t had time – my next book is coming out in Feb 2022 and here’s the gorgeous cover!

The Willing is about Talia, a traumatised young woman escaping a terrible home life to the stress of Oxford university. When tragedy strikes, Talia is brought back to life by Kitty, a cheerful but exhausted magic user who finds herself immediately drawn to Talia.

When Talia appears back in her dorm room, she finds that she hasn’t come back alone – Matt, Kitty’s best friend, is stuck to her as a ghost.

Now Talia, Matt and Kitty have to work together to try and bring Matt back to life, all while navigating the shadowy society where Kitty works, and the growing attraction between Talia and Kitty…

I’m so excited about this book, it’s been a big part of my life for years, and it’s the kind of thing I want to write more and more. Sandy at BSB has been talking to me about my writing identity and I think going forward I want to write wlw romance with a magical twist – just like The Willing AND like the next one I’m planning to write…

Upcoming Panels!

The last couple of months have been a massive slog, and I haven’t made the time to market Not Broken (which is now out!! Aaah!) or the panels I’m speaking on in the next couple of weeks. Real life can be a massive pain, said every writer ever! So here’s a quick run-down of all the awesome stuff coming up – I hope you’ll find time to join in with some of them, I’d love to see you there!

Not Broken came out on Bold Strokes on March 1st, and was then released everywhere on March 15th! I’m so happy with it, and I’ve had some absolutely lovely feedback for it!

ClexaConVirtual April 16-18, 2021

I’ve been invited to join a couple of panels which I’m so excited about! Clexacon is the first one, I’m taking part in a panel called Chemistry 101, talking about how we write romantic chemistry into our books and generally having a blast, I’m sure!

It’s actually tomorrow at 1pm PST (which for me on BST ends up being around 9pm), I know I’m late promoting it… in my defense I’ve been marking exams and practical assessments… If you’d like to join I’d love to see you there!

I’m also SO excited for next weekend where I’ll be doing panels and a reading on the Saturday and Sunday of BSB’s Spring Bookathon! I’d be thrilled to see you there if you can make it – I’ll be reading from Not Broken on Sunday April 25th at 7pm UK time, and doing panels at 9pm on both Saturday (world-wide) and Sunday (author chat).

I’ve ALSO signed a contract to write The Willing – I’ll make a separate post about it showcasing the gorgeous cover art – it’s due to come out in Feb 2022!

Book Reading – Not Broken

Author copies arrived last week!

I’ve had a very busy few weeks (hence the total lack of information here!) I’m currently very busy with running virtual practical sessions (don’t even ask) and homeschooling along with my usual work, and I’ve also signed a contract with BSB for The Willing, which is due to come out in Feb next year! I’ve got to finish the first draft of that for March-April, and I’m happy with how it’s going. I think I’d like to write a bit more about that in a post of its own, so I’ll save that for next week (hopefully!)

As for Not Broken, it’s due out in March! It’ll be available from BSB from March 1st and from places like Amazon and iBooks from the 15th, I believe, so grab a pre-order if you like! I’m also doing a streamed reading as part of the BSB preview on the 20th of Feb, so if you’d like to join, please sign up here! It’s happening at 5pm Eastern (USA) time – think New York and Florida etc. For UK that’s 10pm, so hopefully that’ll give you some idea. It’s completely free to register, and you can send in questions if you like. I hope to see some of you there!

Marian Keyes masterclass

One of my favourite authors has very kindly offered a 4 week course on novel writing, which is lovely and casual and consists of her answering questions and giving advice on Instagram Live – I’ve been loving it!

Originally tweeted by Marian Keyes (@MarianKeyes) on 18th Jan 2021.

With another major lockdown stretching out into February, I was worried I’d leave my writing behind again, like I did last year. This has been just what I needed to engage my interest, just enough external stimulus to get me writing 500 words a day!

She shared a prompt each day and encouraged us to write 500 words of whatever came to mind, trying not to judge and just let our subconscious take over. I found it incredibly liberating – I was surprised that I actually managed to wrap up a little bit of an arc each time, even though most of the stories were based on original characters that I’ve little interest in expanding in the future.

The most telling of all, and the most energising, was seeing my word count increase each day. I started off cheering myself on to reach the 500 word count, and by the end of this week, I wrote 1000 words without thinking much about it. It feels like something’s been unlocked, and I appreciate this whole exercise so much.

Although we are going to have ‘homework’ for this week, it’s going to be something to do with characterisation rather than prompts, so I’m hoping to ease myself back into writing on The Willing (more on that next week!) I feel so much more positive about my writing aims this year.

Target audience

I’ve been trying to work out what binds my work together and what kind of impact it’ll have on things like target audience and genre categories and so on.

Not Broken is my first novel to come out with Bold Strokes Books (it’s just gone to the printers this week!! Aaahh!!!) and like 3/4 of my books so far, has no magic or fantasy element.

However, looking forward, the vast majority of my 11 WIPs would count as urban fantasy, mostly set in regular life but with a fantastical flavour that serves to intensify trauma or mental health issues which can then be solved (mostly through the power of love because I’m a sappy git).

So if the next book I publish with BSB is an urban fantasy, does that screw around with people’s expectations of me? Does that make me hard to market? What really does tie my stuff together?

Hurt/comfort is a big thing. I don’t know if that’s a term outside of fanfic, but it is my JAM! The thing that really matters to me about a story is people being a little bit broken and finding that their jagged edges can fit together with another broken being. That’s what I hope for myself and everyone, after all.

I guess they’re all about mental health, really. Bring You Home was about grief and dealing with abuse. The Willing is about suicidal ideation and, er, abuse again. Starship Jenna is about dissociative disorders, and is based on my own condition.

I guess the common denominator of my stories is also abuse and dysfunctional families… I’m not sure that’s particularly marketable either!

On Low Word Count Targets

I saw a blog post about Terry Pratchett and how he used to only write 400 words a day, a word count that a lot of people would consider really low, and yet he managed to produce so many wonderful, wonderful books, some of which still give me guidance for how to live my life.

It was incredibly inspiring. Because while, yes, by itself a few hundred words is not much at all, it is something! And when I haven’t written for months on end, or I’ve only managed a few hundred words here and there and felt bad about it, 400 words feels achievable. And it all adds up – even doing, as the original blog writer suggested, half of the great Terry Pratchett’s output, 200 words a day, you’d produce a 73,000 word novel over the course of a year! And on top of that you can be planning and editing and poking at other ideas, getting things ready for the next one, or tweaking the last one to publish.

It feels worthwhile. Rather than feeling disappointed with myself when I write less than a thousand words, if I can feel upbeat because I wrote 200 words, or managed to get to 400 and wrote the same as Terry Pratchett himself, I’ll feel more enthusiastic about sitting down to do the same tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.

Passing on NaNo

I was hoping to be able to do NaNo this year, although I have to admit I was also pretty apprehensive. It’s been a weird-ass year and I’ve found it very difficult to write much at all, but I figured maybe I just need to force it out for a month.

Well, work put a stop to that idea anyway. I’ve been asked to re-write the practical course I usually run for the A level biology independent candidates so that it’s more covid-safe. That’s going to take up a huge chunk of the first 2 weeks of November, and I’m sure there’ll be extras added afterwards to take up the second half of the month.

Usually I can make it work. I’ve actually run the practical courses while also completing NaNo in the past! But I think my mojo was a little more co-operative than it is now, and I don’t want to push it. Instead I’m going to try to stick to 200 words a day minimum, so while it might still mean forcing it out, it shouldn’t be too much like pulling teeth!

I’ll be cheering on all the other NaNo-ites from the sidelines!

Photo prompts

Sometimes I find the coolest pictures on Canva – even just limiting my search to the free ones! I was making a graphic for Zero Degrees, which I’m currently uploading onto Ao3 (I know original stuff isn’t really popular there, but it’s probably more likely to be read there than where it was lol!) I came across the one with the Fern-Lady and thought it would be perfect for Changeling!

Sometimes, though, there are pictures that are just really evocative and I’d love to use them, I just don’t have a project they suit right now. I found a bunch of those and put them into a collage above – all pictures I’d love to use in the future. Ones that look like they have great stories behind them, and others that just look funky. Maybe some day I’ll write all the stories!