Liebster award blog post


Thanks to writer and all round lovely Alayna Cole for tagging me in the Liebster Award blog hop. Alayna asked 11 questions (as per the rules), and here are my answers:

  1. Do you use post-it notes? If so, what do you put on them and can you show me photos? If not, why not and what do you do instead?

No, no post-it-notes, I’m a write in the margins kind of person. I tend to doodle as I write too as my memory seems to be linked to whatever I’ve doodled. It’s been like this since I was very little, and I was forever getting into trouble at school for drawing in English and Maths, but it genuinely triggers learning and memory. I also keep a lot of notes on my phone.

  1. Where do you like to write and what’s your favourite thing to snack on while you’re there?

I write mostly in cafes in the morning before I start my day job. I like the noise and having people flitting around, but not intruding. When a story gets beyond a few thousand words though I end up back at my desk (which is really just a small table in the room at the back of our house).

I drink tea a lot. I have a vast collection of tea, teacups and teapots, so I tend to drink tea more than I snack.

  1. What do you do to motivate yourself when it feels like you’ve hit a wall with a project?

I hit metaphorical walls all the time, so I just do something else for a bit. Mostly I tend to go outside for awhile, or read, or go make some more tea.

When I’m really stuck and can’t think straight at all I catch up for coffee with someone like Terry Whidborne. Terry’s not only an amazing, creative person, he’s very structured in his approach to creative projects. He feeds my creativity while making everything seem okay and manageable. Go have coffee with him, seriously.

  1. Do you prefer to research before you write, or start writing before you research? Or does it vary between projects? How?

I write first and research as I go, but it does vary depending on the project. I was born in England and my internal clock seems forever tuned to northern hemisphere seasons, so I’m always looking up basic things like ‘When does winter start and finish?’

Day job reading also just triggers ideas and links to research. I work with a bunch of agricultural scientists during the day, and they’re forever talking about weeds and cows and germplasm (bloody germplasm). But, it’s amazing how many ideas can come from talking about red witch weed or sentinel herds or yellow crazy ants (which I remember as yellow chaos ants).

  1. What is the most exciting project you’re working on right now? What’s your most neglected project?

The Lane of Unusual Traders is probably the most exciting project I’m working on at the moment, because it holds so much promise, and I get to write a little too.

My most neglected projects (plural needed) are two manuscripts The Last Liberty – a tale of a young girl apprenticed at a place called The Northern Dinsgate Library; it’s a tale about coming to terms with who you are. The other project is called the Krampus Road – about a young girl who gets caught on a road built to imprison the Krampus brothers. It’s not finished, but I did use that to inspire the Tiny Owl Krampus Crackers project, so that was a great outcome.

  1. Do you have any key editing tips that you want to share?
  • Go through your manuscript and remove every single ‘that’ you can find. This advice came via my almost-daughter Cinnamon and it’s the best advice.
  • Get someone to read your story out aloud to you. If the reader stumbles or frowns they’re finding it hard to read, so mark those bits and edit or rewrite them.
  • If you have too much logistical information in your manuscript (e.g. Robert knelt down and picked up the ball. He stood up again and threw it back to Cerberus) then it’s probably a first draft quality manuscript and a long way from being finished.
  • Get used to being edited and don’t get incensed when you open up a document and it’s full of edits. Editors aren’t trying to change or rewrite your manuscript (if they are, then find a real editor), they’re trying to help you chip away all the unnecessary words, and ensure you’ve realised the full potential of your characters and the plot.
  • Writing ‘Emily was terrified’ isn’t terrifying.
  • Learn the difference between a writer’s draft and a reader’s draft. This really helps.
  1. Do you need to know the ending of your stories before you start them? What sort of character and setting planning do you do before starting your narrative?

No, I’m a total pantser. I start with an idea or a sentence, see where the story goes, then write down plot notes as I go. I find it hard to know the ending when I don’t know my characters well. The first draft is all about me getting to know my characters and the world I’ve thrown them into (poor luvs).

  1. Have you noticed any particular themes, motifs, genres, characters, or settings that keep reappearing in your work?

Great questions.

Yes, most definitely. A theme in my own writing is being stuck between worlds, or being stuck and having to work your way out of something.  I also love to play with notions of privilege and power, and the idea that some people genuinely believe that they are privileged because they work harder than others. It’s such a great delusion to work with.

  1. Do you have a favourite book right now? Do you have a favourite book of all time?

Wild by Emily Hughes (author and illustrator) is my favourite book right now. It’s a picture book and it is a wonderful book about not stuffing girls into given roles. The words are perfection, the illustrations are devine. I also love The Arrival by Shaun Tan, mostly because it’s a stunningly visual book, but at the moment Australia has the most appalling policy on refugees and The Arrival is a reminder of something better. It also reminds me of my Dad, who worked for a long time to support refugees.

My favourite book though is Nightwatch by Terry Pratchett. Sam Vimes is an angry man, and I relate to his anger and his constant battle to control it and do what’s right/fair. Vimes, Granny Weatherwax and Death to some extent are basically the same character, and I love their inner struggles and how they all walk on the edge of right and wrong, life and death, and loneliness and togetherness.

  1. What’s the hardest part of a writing project, in your opinion? World building? Introductions? Editing?

To be honest, nothing. Writing is a joy. It’s what I do to be in a creative place. My day job is not creative, and most of the people I work with are not creative (at least not at work), and that’s a challenge and it takes a lot of time out of each day, so nothing about my own writing is hard.

  1. What are your most common procrastination activities? What do you always find yourself doing when you’re supposed to be writing?
  • Social media is the devil.
  • Books are Sirens that never stop calling.
  • Any old movie starring Margaret Rutherford is impossible to pass up.
  • Drawing and painting.

My nominations

My questions

  1. What is your favourite word? Wny?
  2. Who wrote the best sentence you’ve ever read? Why is it the best sentence?
  3. What music do you listen to while writing?
  4. What is the most exciting project you’re working on right now? What’s your most neglected project?
  5. Do you have any key editing tips that you want to share?
  6. Is there a writer that makes you laugh? Who is it, andwhy do they make you laugh?
  7. Have you noticed any particular themes, motifs, genres, characters, or settings that keep reappearing in your work?
  8. Do you have a favourite book right now? Do you have a favourite book of all time?
  9. Who is your favourite illustrator? Why?
  10. If you could co-write a book with a famous author (expired or still breathing) who would that be?
  11. Where is your favourite place to write?

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