Camp NaNoWriMo, Here I Come!

Hey,

So, it’s the first Monday update! 😀

Me

This week, I am starting Camp NaNoWriMo! You can see my script’s synopsis here.

I also think the great program Celtx may have saved my Camp NaNo’s goofy ass, and I honestly cannot wait to use it. Seriously, check it out, it’s pretty awesome and I only signed up today.

Although I need to finish outlining first.

Ah. Yeah. About that…

Other than that, not much is really happening. I’m reading a lot more, so you guys’ll have a steady stream of reviews. I have college open days and my prom this week, so maybe that’ll spark some inspiration. Other than that…nothing, really.

The Blog

On Tuesday, I won’t be doing reviews any more, because, to be honest, I’m running out of them. I’m actually really terrible at writing reviews, and it takes me ages, so yeah. Instead, I’ll be doing a NaNoWriMo post, setting you up for the week, if it’s on, or if not I might report on something happening in the writing world, but I don’t really know yet.

How are you all this week? Looking forward to it?

Comment below! I love hearing from you all. 🙂

– Hannah

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby

The parties at Gatsby’s Long Island mansion were legendarily glamorous affairs.

Yet amid the throng of guests, starlets and champagne waiters, their host would appear oddly aloof. For there was only one person Jay Gatsby sought to impress. She was Daisy Buchanan: married, elegant, seducing men with a silken charisma and ‘a voice…full of money’.

As Gatsby pursues shady deals and his doomed obsession with Daisy, F. Scott Fitzgerald distils the essence of the Jazz Age, and probes to the empty heart of the American Dream. – Blurb from Penguin Popular Classics book

In 2013, I believe, The Great Gatsby was gifted to me by a pen-pal in Scotland at Christmas. I don’t know why I didn’t pick up the book before now – maybe the idea of reading it didn’t interest me, or I had other things to read – and the book was pushed to the back of the pile. Then, I had a question from her asking about my characters and who they would be in Gatsby. That was when I decided it had to be read.

I was pleasantly surprised, and regret not picking it up earlier. Although it didn’t entice me to begin with – moreover, I had trouble deciphering exactly what the book was talking about due to language I was not used to (but has apparently furrowed its way into my mind) – it grew on me, and I spent one morning finishing it off after not turning a page for about a week. It was in this morning of the 26th June 2014 that I fell in love with the book.

The characters are all unique to themselves – Daisy with her snootiness and naivetés; Nick with his straight-forward thinking and probably the most stable of the lot; and finally Gatsby, with his ‘doomed obsession’ and varying moods. The have different voices and even catchphrases, old sport. They are also painted in such a way you can see them as you read, and they become real. Obviously, this is something you want in a good piece of writing, and it is presented perfectly.

As for the plot, well, it isn’t the most interesting. It is the way Fitzgerald has told it that makes it interesting. Events that occur all the way through – side plots, if you will – add to the main one, and make it so the actual plot doesn’t bore you. Sure, this is used in all books, but I particularly noted it in Gatsby. Vivid descriptions that bring the scenes to life. Fitzgerald’s way of narrating is, although it was written 88 years ago, rather relatable also.

I think it was Fitzgerald’s entertaining voice that kept me reading; that, and the descriptions, which were brilliant. I think this is one of the few books I would be willing to read again, and may even do so.

Overall, I seriously recommend Gatsby. Some people may not like it because they had to study it in school (that really does destroy so many good books!) but I think that if you want to have a look into the past, it’s a brilliant way to do so. Although I can’t yet completely put my finger on why I love this book so, I think it has something to do with the characters – maybe they’ll grow on you, too. I may even try watching the film.

Snap ‘Em Up (Not Literally)

Snap snap snap!

Speech, action, description.

What do all of these things have in common? Well, yes, they’re all words; but, more importantly, they’re ways to start your story! And we all love starting stories…

When readers start reading, you have about 3-5 seconds to capture their attention. I’ve just read a page of something and discovered that when I read normally, 3-5 seconds is about 20-30 words. Some sources say you have 10 seconds, which is what I actually did – and that was 59 words.

As you can see, you don’t have a long time, maybe one or two sentences. So how do you keep those readers reading?

The first line (I’m keeping this with a story, but if it’s a film or play, say about the first few minutes, even seconds. If it’s a poem, unless it’s like the Odyssey, they’re bound to keep reading cause it’s short) is crucially important. Most readers will try and at least make it to the last line of the first page before the put the book down and pick up another, or click the ‘back’ button on the top of the screen, but it’d be a lot easier for you if they were hooked from the beginning. Of course, you have to do your job and keep them reading beyond that, but that’s for another article next week.

I have in front of me 3 books (they were just lying around, but they’re quite different and I hope at least one appeals to you). Here are their first lines:

  1. ‘Renowned curator Jacques Sauniere staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery.’ – The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.
  2. ‘I suppose a lot of teenage girls feel invisible sometimes, like they just disappear.’ – I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter
  3. ‘Sam Horwitz had never felt so excited.’ – The Forgotten Army by Brian Minchin (Doctor Who book)

So, the question is, what is it about these first lines that keep readers reading?

Well, The Da Vinci Code intrigues us with the words ‘renowned’, ‘staggered’ and introducing a character. We’re wondering why they’re staggering, and how they are renowned. Curious? Yes. (I’d just like to point out now that I haven’t read The Da Vinci Code, so no spoilers please. It is on my to-read list though, promise!)

Ally Carter’s book (come on, that title is way too long to type out) pulls us in by wondering why this narrator (we’re assuming a teenage girl, but can’t be sure) is talking about teenage girls and why they’re disappearing. It’s relatable, too, ’cause we’ve all felt like it (I’m assuming). And we want to know why the narrator is talking about feeling invisible – maybe they’re actually invisible? We don’t know, but we want to find out.

Finally, The Forgotten Army grabs our attention by introducing a character and making him excited. We’re wondering why he’s excited, what it is he’s looking at. We’re wondering who this Sam is, as well, and that keeps us reading too.

Now we’ve seen how the professionals do it. But how can we apply this to ourselves?

There are many things you can do (note: not all of these apply to the first line, but definitely the first page):

  • DO give them something interesting, eg humour or action, preferably in the first line. People want need something to keep them continue reading. You are the writer, you have to do that for them. SO DO IT.
  • DO ensure spelling, grammar and punctuation are the best they can be (this puts so many people off. Make sure the first page is typo-free, at least).
  • DO introduce a character that the readers are interested in. (The Da Vinci Code)
  • DO introduce a setting that the readers are interested in. (I don’t have one with setting at the moment, but I’m sure you know what I mean – crumbling walls and what-not)
  • DO introduce a scenario the readers are interested in. (The other two)

The first line has to snap up the readers’ attention. Throw them your best language, most fabulous description. Think about what made you read this article (hopefully it’s ’cause you were curious about the first three words. If not, that’s gone horribly wrong).

In anything, the first line has to get your readers asking six questions that keep them going: who, what, when, where, why and how. These questions may pop up later in the first paragraph, but by the end of the page, your readers should be thinking ‘come on, I want to know!’

And this, my friend, is what keeps them going. And another important thing is not to drivel on in your first chapter, as I am doing now (I’ll stop soon, promise).

I think it’d be easier right now to write about what not to do when starting. Here:

  • DO NOT start with describing the weather. The only time this is acceptable is when the character is about to get struck by lightening, or it is huge to your plot. If your character is sitting in the garden, start with something different other than they’re basking in the sun.
  • DO NOT start with something that doesn’t come to play in the rest of the book (eg the WEATHER). In The Forgotten Army, Sam is excited about a new exhibit, but it all goes horribly wrong – his excitement helps to create a plot twist.
  • DO NOT start with character or setting (eg, ‘It was 1949 and the beach was golden…’) description. At least give us some action first, otherwise the readers are gonna put your story down ’cause they’ll assume it’s all boring drivel. I originally got you reading with excitement and curiosity, and here you are now – reading my boring drivel.
  • Basically, don’t start with anything you wouldn’t want to read yourself. There, that’s easy, isn’t it?

I hope I’ve given you some food for thought about how to start your next piece, or, indeed, update existing ones. And if you’ve read this far have a cookie, cause this has been quite a long article. Sorry about that. Quite a lot to say on the subject to be honest.

Here’s a task for you: find a book you loved and a book you hated/didn’t finish and look at their first lines. What dragged you into the one you liked, and made you put down the one you didn’t?

Questions, comments, thoughts? Shoot! 😀 

Ps sorry it was so long, I got a little carried away…

Mondays and when I don’t update

Hi guys,

Yeah, sorry for not writing a story for today. I’ve been kinda busy.

Right: on Mondays, I’m going to do updates about my own writing outside of this blog and updates for the blog in general (eg if I’m not doing a story or something this week).

Unless it’s really urgent, hopefully it’ll avoid random updates like these!

When I don’t update, I’ll always try to do a double – so there’ll be a double article this Friday (or I might post the second on Saturday, I don’t know yet) because then you get what you signed up for!

I won’t do a double story, though, ’cause I did two last week.

Thanks for sticking with me, guys,

Hannah 🙂

Have a Little Faith by Candy Harper

Have a Little Faith by Candy Harper

Have a Little Faith

Have a Little Faith, written in diary entries,follows Faith Ashby throughout her first four months of Year 10 – through underage driving, first kisses, mixed boy feelings and various antics, it keeps you engaged with short entries in places, but also with longer ones that keep you turning the page.

Faith is hilarious, witty, can be quite cruel, and is very feisty but absolutely perfect, and I would love to be her friend. I was constantly laughing – even crying with laughter at one point! – and her story kept me continuously turning the page, eagerly waiting on her next words. Her relationship with brother Sam is fascinating (to say the least) and her friendship with Megs is fantastic!

When I read this book, I was going through my third set of mock exams and was getting ready for my real ones, so it was a rather stressful time – especially as I had about 21 exams crammed into two weeks! The relief I got from reading Have a Little Faith was astounding. I honestly don’t think I would’ve got through it as well as I did without it!

Finishing the book brought a longing to my heart (especially as it ended on a cliffhanger!) and I was also absolutely delighted to find out that there is a sequel, Keeping the Faith, which came out in April! Although I have yet to buy the book, I cannot wait to do so!

I would absolutely recommend this book, mainly to teenagers, but I think adults would find it a humorous read (if just laughing at Faith’s naivety) also!

Bubblegum {Short Story}

Want to view this story where it’s at? Click here!

Bubblegum

Wordcount: 996
Prompt: your character is working at an ice-cream parlour when their crush walks in. What happens?

~

Bubblegum

~

‘Sup, newbie?” Cal smiled nervously at the boy in front of him. Grey eyes sparkled mischievously.

Um, hi,” he replied.

I’m Scott,” the boy said, sticking his hand out. Chocolate sauce dripped from his fingers. “Oh, sorry.” Scott wiped his hand on a cloth.

Um, it’s ok.”

You say ‘um’ a lot, don’t you?” Scott asked.

Leave off him, Scott,” Penny, the ice-cream parlour owner, said. “Be nice.” She pushed Cal forward. “Scott’ll look after you…won’t you, Scott?” Scott smiled angelically and Cal immediately felt like he was in big trouble. “Well, I’ll leave you boys to it, then. Show him the ropes, alright?” Penny walked away; Cal wanted to scream after her, “Please don’t leave me!”

Scott threw an apron in his face. “Put that on,” he ordered. “I’ll show you what to do.”

~

Some time later, Cal was exhausted and wishing he could have a break. It seemed like every single person in the little village had decided that today would be the day they wanted ice-cream. To make matters worse, Scott was quick, clean and efficient; Cal dropped spoons and mixed up banana and vanilla. Which is practically impossible, anyway.

Eventually, the crowd ceased. Scott leaned against the counter and stared expectantly. “What?” Cal asked. Scott was always full of questions, as Cal had discovered, and he was wary at what his next one would be.

So, do you have a girlfriend?”

No,” Cal replied sourly.

Boyfriend?” Cal’s heart skipped. No one even assumed Cal liked guys, let alone knew.

Cal spluttered, “No! No, I don’t have a boyfriend. I’m single.” Scott raised his eyebrows and chewed on a toffee stick.

Sounds like you want one,” he commented, “protesting too much.” Cal glared. Scott ignored him and continued, “Anyone caught your eye?”

Look, can you just drop it?” Scott held up his hands in defence.

The tinkling sound of the bell interrupted his reply. “Yours,” Scott said, “I need a pee.” Cal rolled his eyes, turned to face his new customer and heard his heartbeat in his ears, pulse throbbing in his neck. “On second thoughts,” Scott muttered in Cal’s ear as he glanced at the new boy, “I might stay…”

Cal took a deep breath and plastered on a smile. In front of him stood his crush, Luke. Muscles, floppy hair, brown eyes, white (if a little wonky) teeth.

Fancying a guy who sat next to him in maths but barely acknowledged his existence had become the norm for Cal. He began to live with it; live with the fact he wouldn’t ever be with this guy.

Oh, hey Cal,” Luke smiled, “I didn’t know you worked here.” Cal felt his voice catch in his throat.

Scott, as if sensing his discomfort, intervened smoothly. “He didn’t until this morning.” Luke raised his eyebrows and smiled. “I’m Scott. What do you fancy?” He indicated the array of colours beneath the glass.

Deliberating, Liam popped his hip. “What would you recommend?” he toyed. Annoyance flooded Cal’s veins; Liam was flirting with Scott?! Whatever happened to being straight? he thought.

Bubblegum,” Cal interrupted, before Scott could open his mouth. Scott raised his eyebrows and smiled brotherly at him. Liam nodded.

Alright, I’ll have that please.”

Coming right up!” Inwardly groaning (it had to be that cheesy?!), Cal scooped out two lumps of bubblegum and plopped them in the cone. Scott chatted to Liam at the till, but Cal chose to ignore them; Liam flipping his hair at someone who wasn’t him wasn’t his idea of fun.

Sulkily, he rested the cone in the holder. “£1.50, please.” Liam handed over the cash without a word, still smiling at Scott.

So,” Liam said, resting his elbow on the table and taking a lick of the cone, “can I ask for your number?” Cal’s chest thumped – but no, Liam was talking to Scott. What does he have that I don’t? Cal asked himself, annoyed at the tears pricking his eyes.

Eyebrows raised, Scott laughed and threw a teatowel over his shoulder. “Sorry, I’m taken.” He winked at Liam, and clapped Cal on the back. “I’m sure this guy wouldn’t mind it, though.”

Cal made a promise to strangle Scott later.

Awkwardly, he laughed. Liam glanced at him, asked for a piece of paper. Scott almost threw it his way, the pen nearly taking out his eye. Liam scribbled down his number and passed it to Cal. “Um, thanks,” Cal said to Liam’s already retreating back.

You,” Cal hissed, rounding on Scott.

What?” Scott asked through a mouthful of fudge stick.

You forced him into that!”

Did not!”

Did.”

Didn’t.” Cal glared and Scott mocked him by staring back. Scott swallowed. “Well, you never would’ve got his number without me.”

Cal glanced down at the scrap. “How do I even know it’s his?” he mused.

It is,” Scott replied confidentially, even though Cal hadn’t wanted an answer.

How do you know? And why didn’t you tell me you had a boyfriend anyway?!” Scott shrugged.

I just think it is.” He wiped the tabletop. “And I just thought it’d be a bit of fun. So, you’re gonna text him?”

Naa. He’s not really interested.”

He is.”

Isn’t…he only gave it because you goaded him.”

‘Goaded’, who even says that? Goaded…”

Cal punched his arm. “Pay attention!” Scott rubbed the spot where Cal made his mark.

Just call him. He wouldn’t have given it to you if he didn’t want you to have it.”

Sighing, Cal went to the other side of the counter to start clearing the tables. “Maybe I will, maybe I won’t.”

Well, if you don’t, I will!” Cal’s head shot up protectively, and his eyes shot daggers.

You’re taken!”

Darling,” Scott smiled, sashaying his hips, “the thing is, I’m always wanted.” He winked. 

~

Thanks for reading! Feedback is appreciated! 😀

Better With Two {Short Story}

Want to view this story where it’s at? Click here!

Better With Two

Wordcount: 1097
Prompt: your character wakes up and discovers they’re invisible! What happens?

~

Better With Two

~

Slamming awoke her. Shouting echoed down the street. Stones thrown at the window. “What…” Janie groaned, tugging at her hair.

Tossing the duvet aside, she sat up, licking her lips to get rid of the sleep drool. She peered out of the window, but no one was underneath. She opened the window and yelled, “You’re meant to knock on the door, morons!”

The closet opened with a loud creak and Janie stared at the array of black suits. “What shall I wear today…” she mused aloud. She adored her job and her colleagues, but the dress code didn’t allow for much variety. Boring but easy.

As she got changed, she glanced at herself in the mirror. Not seeing anything, she shrugged and decided it was a trick of the light, hurrying down the stairs for breakfast, tugging a brush through her blonde bob.

Burnt toast and sloppy scrambled eggs. Appetising… Still, Janie had nothing else and swallowed the vile fodder, trying to keep bile from rising in her throat.

She drove to work, managing to miss the so-called traffic jams that the radio kept banging on about. Sure, she had to drive on the pavement once or twice, and got a few strange looks, but nothing out of the ordinary.

When she arrived, the car park was empty of human life, and she hurried in. The doors opened automatically, but the receptionist’s head shot up and he stared wondrously at the entrance. Her mouth full of keys, Janie could only wave, but the receptionist didn’t wave back. Odd, she thought, but decided she was too late to question it.

“Sorry I’m-” she started, bursting into the shared office, shutting her mouth when she realised she wouldn’t be heard. Alice was the only occupant; her feet rested on the table top, her head bobbed to music whilst she typed. The slamming of the door shocked her from her trance and she stood, her hand automatically reaching for the gun at her waist.

“Hello?” she asked cautiously, earbuds abandoned on the chair. Gun drawn from holster, she held it in front of her; staring at Janie but not seeing her.

“Hi,” Janie replied quietly, the gun pointing to her head and making her heart leap into her mouth. Cinematically, she thought, This is the end, to herself, before deciding not to be so melodramatic.

Alice jumped. Her arm fell, the gun pointing to the floor. Janie breathed a sigh of relief.

Alice’s head tilted to the side, and she said, “Janie? Where are you? I can’t see you.”

“What?” Janie laughed ludicrously. Maybe this was another prank she had fallen a victim to – well, it wouldn’t be the first time. She sat at the desk, and Alice stared at the chair moving.

She held up her hands. “Janie, don’t panic, but I think you might be invisible.”

Quite the opposite of panicking, Janie laughed again. “Invisible? I think you’re losing your mind.” Alice reached over under her desk and pulled out a small mirror, passing it to her, her eyes fixated on the chair.

Opening the mirror with a loud click, Janie rolled her eyes before glancing at her reflection. Only… there wasn’t one.

“What’s wrong with me?” she burst out, leaning forward, her heart fluttering. Invisible? “That’s…that’s not possible.” Alice shrugged and sat down, rubbing her eyes with her fingers.

“Naa, you’re right, it’s not. Maybe I really am going bananas. You’re real, right?” Janie leant over and pinched her; Alice flinched and glared in Janie’s general direction. “Thank you for establishing that fact,” she grumbled.

The girls sat back for a moment, both marvelling at their discovery; one in panic and one in curiosity.

The mirror began to glow. Alice glanced over. “Ok. I’m dreaming. Probably.”

Four words appeared on the looking-glass: Only for one day. “Well, that’s boring,” Alice commented. “In that case, we better have some fun!”

Janie tried really hard not to see the mischievous twinkling in Alice’s eye, but failed miserably.

~

The day passed in a flurry: stealing food from the canteen, winding up Scott by moving his things, pinching random people as they walked by in the corridor. Janie felt a bit mean at times, but Alice’s shrill laugh and cockyness made up for the discomfort.

“This is brilliant,” she whispered from the umpteenth time as she chewed on a croissant, “absolutely brilliant.”

“For you maybe,” Janie hissed back, “but I’m the one who’s gonna get into trouble.”

“Naa,” Alice replied, “I’ll cover you.”

Grabbing ahold of Janie’s arm, Alice suddenly dragged her into a doorway. “Look.” She indicated up the hall, and Janie saw their least favourite person: Agent West. “Go on…” Alice egged, “Please annoy him.”

Janie sighed, ready to stand up for herself. Unfortunately, Alice Frost brought out the worst in her.

She stuck her leg out and West tripped. Hands poked his body, crumbs sprinkled in his hair. Janie glanced back to see her partner-in-crime had scampered up the halls and away, cackling as she went. “Oh for-” she muttered, running away from the scene.

“Oi!” West yelled behind her, but Janie ignored him, her training keeping her footsteps quiet.

“Alice!” Janie scolded after she had found her, collapsed and unable to breath in a corner. “I can’t believe you just left me!”

“I’m- so- sorry!” Alice wheezed in between bouts of laughter. “It was just so funny!” She collected herself. “Besides, he couldn’t see you anyway.”

“Thank god.” Janie slid down the wall and sat next to her best friend. “Now what?” Alice glanced at her watch.

“Actually… I have to go. I’m taking Cal to his school. Parent’s evening.” She made a disgusted face and snorted. “I’m not even his parent!”

“Rather you than me,” Janie said, yawning. “I might just go home and sleep.” Alice poked out her tongue.

“Well, I’ll see you tomorrow, then.” She stood, and turned to Scott who was hurrying down the hall.

“Ali!” he cried. “Have you seen Janie?”

Heart thudding, Janie was relieved when Alice lied quickly. Who knew what trouble she would get into with Scott around. “No, she’s ill. She texted me earlier.”

“Oh, ok…” Scott deflated.

“I wouldn’t go around,” Alice replied, reading his next question, “she’ll be sleeping.” Scott shrugged and strolled off, making some remark about skipping work. Alice winked and waved to Janie, who was left on the floor wondering how on earth she could get through a door without anyone noticing.

~

Thanks for reading! Feedback is always appreciated! 😀 

 

Polly Wants to Be a Writer by Laura Thomas

Polly Wants to Be a Writer by Laura Michelle Thomas

Polly Wants to Be a Writer by Laura Michelle Thomas

Polly Wants to be a Writer tells the story of Polly, a wannabe writer (surprisingly), making a journey from writer’s block to first-drafthood. At the beginning of the book, Polly desperately wants to be able to write, but she just can’t. Then a smelly, grumpy, albino dragon with appalling manners pops out of her Grandmother’s mirror and eats her laptop. Polly runs to Ms.Whitford, an author who was visiting Polly’s school to choose reviewers for her book (and Polly wasn’t one of them). But, to Polly’s surprise, Ms.Whitford isn’t the least bit concerned that Polly has a dragon in her bedroom. Thus commences the story of Polly and Scrum, who she finds out is her literary dragon – her inner critic – fighting the evil Dr.Mammozarack, who tries to take literary dragons from their writers; meeting Yulleg, the world’s most famous writer who hates his job; and finding out that Polly’s dad isn’t a tractor salesman, but actually an author published under many names. All the way throughout, Polly struggles: battling Scrum after he destroys her room and basically terrifies her; making friends with Scrum after he destroys her room and terrifies her; defying authority to save her friends; and the challenge of writing her first draft – her lump of clay.

Although different to what I imagined (I thought it would be more of a manual, to be honest), Polly was a good story. With hints from Ms.Whitford, that can be applied to real life, the sassiness of Scrum and the reliability of the story kept me engaged, and the tips really are worthwhile. So basically, this book teaches you, but also informs you and keeps you gripping the pages. I really hope that my dragon, Ariadne, will be as helpful as Scrum when my first book is finished! – and I will definitely try to write Polly’s story, which is a little challenge set by Laura, the author, at the end of the book.

GUESS WHO’S BACK?!

HI GUYS!

Yes, that wonderful person who is back is ME!

My exams are over (all 23 of them) so I will be resuming posts as normal from this week, starting with a book review in a moment.

And, as a Special Treat (well, it depends if you like them, actually) I’ll be posting TWO stories this week, so I’ll do one on Wednesday and one on Friday.

So yeah.

HI! 😀

I'm back and crazier than ever

I’m back and crazier than ever