Happy New Year

I’m not usually one for resolutions, but this year I have a few writing-orientated ones, including:

1. Finish editing the novel (almost done to the point of bringing in outside help)
And 2. Send off the novel. A whole other nail-biting blog post to follow on that subject.

It’s been a good year. There’s no denying that. I finished my MA in Creative Writing, finished my novel, had several things published and have read some amazing books.

My Book of the Year is: A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan.
Don’t be fooled by the title – this isn’t a pseudo-science book, this is fantasy novel riddled with adventure, feminism, steampunk flavours and an addictive narrator. I highly recommend you read it, even if one scale of a dragon is normally enough to turn you off a book. This is not Middle Earth.

Have a good one, and thank you everyone who has supported me this year by buying an anthology I’ve been published in, coming to readings, proofing manuscripts or offering emotional support. I love you all.

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Festive Tales

Whichever midwinter festival you’re celebrating, have a good one!
Writing with Christmas in mind is something I don’t usually do (though I did once ghost-write a festive tale for a magazine), but it’s always fun to read. Christmas and its ilk find their way into many novels, but here are some of my favourites.

5. The Harry Potter series.

Surely worth a mention just for the ‘magic’ that is ‘Christmas at Hogwarts’. It always snows, there are giant trees, living decorations and the food, good grief.

4. A Christmas Carol

I try and read this every year, though last year I had to settle for watching The Muppets’ version on TV. A ghost story everyone knows, but is even better first hand.

3. Ichiro’s gift in Doll

Ichiro builds a replacement mother for a boy whose real parent is physically and emotionally abusive. Ichiro’s is forced to deliver the android in a sack, whilst covered in blood. A macabre story, but the boy does get a mother capable of looking after him.

2. Hogfather

I committed the terrible sin of watching the TV adaptation before reading the book in this instance, but the entire story is so wonderfully, festively bonkers. Death, the Tooth Fairy, presents, Anthropomorphic Personification, what else is Hogswatch all about?

1. Every Christmas from the Adrian Mole diaries

The Mole Christmases are the right mixture of normal, weird, tradition and domesticity that makes them utterly believable. From Adrian’s panic about asking for ‘breast or thigh’ in his teens to his breakdown over the gravy in his later years, it’s Christmas as it should be.

M.A. Creative Writing Graduation

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On the 29th November, along with authors Oliver Clark and Sana Aslam, I graduated with distinction from my Masters in Creative Writing.

This really did feel like the end of an era. Not just saying goodbye to local and international friends I’ve made along the two years studying the course, but also to talented and supportive tutors. It was also bidding farewell to a university campus that really has been my second home since 2006, when I started my B.A.

Studying creative writing isn’t for everyone. It isn’t even for all writers. It plants a critical (some might say cynical) seed in your brain, ready to sprout whenever you read something new. You analyse and you workshop without meaning to. ‘As’s and ‘and’s jump off the page. You notice when characters walk about or make food, filling space without doing anything. In many ways, you do lose some of the ‘fun’ of reading.

But I do believe this is a sacrifice worth making. I now read novels more effectively – looking for deliberate plot devices by the author. I agonise over word choices in dialogue, because it all has to lead somewhere – maybe somewhere amazing!

And, of course, it has made me a better writer. I finished one novel and began two others, as well as having short stories published in nine different places. I feel as though I don’t waffle to fill a word count, and am more willing to rein in characters who threaten to take over the page. I have also developed a deep, deep love of workshopping, something that some of us on the course have been unwilling to say ‘goodbye’ to.

So, congratulations, Class of 2014. Didn’t we do well?

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