Tag Archives: #wonderfulworldofwriting

limerick challenge #25 – tiger

At the weekend my sons asked me to write a limerick about a tiger. I foolishly thought it would be quite a straight-forward one to write but somehow, despite all the rhymes for ‘tiger’ I thought up, it was tough to make it into a limerick. The one I ended up with had several endings all of which my older son objected to as ‘too grisly’. This one might strike a chord for the modern-day mountaineer though…

 

There once was a plucky young tiger

Who scaled the north face of the Eiger

But her ‘look at me!’ tweet

To show off this feat

Wouldn’t send – drat! No service provider!

 

Tiger on the Eiger holding a smart phone. Helicopters are hovering above (I'd worried him with grizzly ending  you see so he was making sure the tiger got home safely.

Tiger on the Eiger holding a smart phone. Helicopters are hovering above (I’d worried him with grisly ending you see, so he was making sure the tiger got home safely).

And if you’re wondering about my alternative versions, I’ll throw this one in for free:

 

There once was a plucky young tiger

Who scaled the north face of the Eiger

Where she fell from the top

Landed SPLAT on her bot

And splattered her guts far and wide(er).

 

There was another one where she got eaten by vultures too!

The picture was drawn by my seven-year-old using some new pastels he’s got that are water-soluble, hence it looking a bit like a painting. He found it tough to get any detail with them but they were pretty fun to use – I had a go too!

I wonder if you can send a tweet from the top of the Eiger?
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Prose for Thought

procrastination – #WhatImNOTwriting

Right. This is it.

The toddler is asleep.

I’m ready.

I’m going to write my book. Like, right now.

Oh yes I am.

But first, biscuits. Biscuits will help. Definitely. Chocolate ones?

Good, chocolate digestives, found some, can’t stand hobnobs; too sweet. Does anyone like hobnobs really?

*googles ‘hobnob popularity vs digestives’*… oooh, it turns out the chocolate is on the bottom NOT the top of the biscuit, huh, who knew?

Which biscuit is more popular though? No, don’t look, don’t look! MUST CRACK ON!

Cracking on now, no wait! CUP OF TEA! How could I even think of beginning without a cup of tea?

Ah, tea. Tea and biscuits…

Nice mug that, I like Bridgewater.

Which reminds me, there was that lamp I liked…

*googles ‘blue ceramic lamp’*

Ooh that’s lovely, that would look great in the living room… it would match those cushions!

Those cushions that I don’t actually own but I’m sure I saw them in a catalogue the other day. Which catalogue though?

*goes on a hunt through the ‘box of random crap in the kitchen that I don’t want to throw out but don’t quite know what to do with’*

Nope, not there. Could have been online?

*googles ‘ cushions match ceramic lamp blue squiggles’*

What’s with these search results? What have spiders webs got to do with lamps, eh google?!

Although really, spiders are impressive creatures, I mean look at that web!

Oh FFS GET ON WITH THE WRITING!

Ok, Ok, I’m on it! Look at me, I’ve got my laptop open and everything!

I’ve typed the title! I’m cooking with gas! See me go, I’ll have written masses by the time the toddler wakes up from h…

“WAAAAHH!”

Bugger.

***

(P.S This is my second post for #WhatImWriting this week. Chrissie decided on the (optional) theme: ‘What I’m NOT writing’ but I’ve had such a productive week I wanted to write about that. But then I’m a pro at procrastination so I couldn’t resist writing this post too!)

Muddled Manuscript

 

Updated 10th April – ‘The Prompt’ over at Mum turned Mom this week is ‘Procrastination’ so I couldn’t resist linking up this post!
mumturnedmom

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alphabet story

I enjoyed the ‘ten to one‘ writing challenge I did last week so when Nicola suggested doing another challenge this week I was up for it. This week’s it’s an ‘alphabet story’ where you write a story with twenty-six sentences and each sentence has to start with a consecutive letter of the alphabet. Here’s what I came up with:

toy leopard

A leopard had always appealed to her as a pet.

But Ellen, that’s ridiculous!” her mum said.

Can’t you see how dangerous that would be?” added her dad. “Did the snake calamity teach you nothing?”

Ellen considered this: it was true that Patrick the python had caused problems but his snakeish charm had made it worthwhile… perhaps not for her parents’ bank balance though.

Forget I said anything then.” but she herself had no intention of forgetting.

Grey’s Exotic Animal Zoo was deserted as she squeezed in through a gap in the fence later that night. Her heart was pounding so loudly she could almost hear it echoing off the silent buildings around her, but she she was determined to stick to her plan. It shouldn’t be too difficult she thought, urging her trembling legs into action. Just follow the path round the back of the bushes until it reaches the leopard enclosure.

Keeping very quiet she crept along, her torch light sweeping over silent cages and empty pens. Looks like all the animals are asleep, she thought with relief. Maybe that’s for the best considering what I’ve done to the security system! Now, is this where the leopards live?

Oh!

Peering out at her through the bars was a pair of glowing eyes. Quickly Ellen introduced herself and outlined her idea; she knew her life was at risk once the leopard knew his cage was unlocked so it was important to persuade him she was more than just a tasty meal!

Realising there was something interesting about this girl, Xavier listened to what she was proposing. She smelt good but there were other ways to fill his stomach and the life she described sounded tempting; more tempting than a midnight snack? Turning towards the door of his enclosure, he pushed it open with his nose and walked towards her.

Unsure of his intentions, Ellen stood rooted to the spot while the leopard sniffed her. Very well he finally nodded his assent and was gratified to see respect and relief reflected in her eyes.

Walking side by side they made their way back along the moonlit path towards the gap in the fence. Xavier turned his gleaming eyes upon her and Ellen could see what he was thinking. You and I: this is the start of an adventure!

Zoos are no place for wild animals” Ellen smiled back at him,“and I’ve always wanted a leopard as a pet.”

 

When I started the story I had no idea where it would lead so I’m pleased I got it to make some sort of sense! It’s clunky though. There were many sentences I was dying to restructure but I couldn’t because then they would have started with the wrong letter. It’s quite a restrictive way of writing in that way but I also found it quite liberating in a way because it freed me of the ability to tweak the story endlessly as I normally would. It has to remain a bit jagged and imperfect.

Funnily enough, I rather like the idea of Ellen and Xavier (names picked purely to fit the alphabet!) and the adventures they might have together… food for thought…
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Nikki Young Writes
Prose for Thought

festive limericks

photo (10)
I’m about to take a little blogging break over the festive period but I couldn’t go without writing a special Christmas limerick. This one ended up becoming one of my ‘story limericks‘ that spill into two verses. I haven’t shown it to my sons for fear it would ruin their view of santa…

Santa’s Special Delivery

One Christmas unlucky Saint Nick
Began to feel terribly sick
He leaned out of his sleigh
Yelled “Look out! Bombs away!
Duck for cover below me – and quick!”

He was (thankfully) over the sea
So no one got splashed with his tea
Then our dear, festive dude
Having thrown up his food
Filled our stockings up nausea-free!

 

Merry Christmas everyone – I hope you have a joyful, restful, wonderful time and a very Happy New Year! xxx

 

mumturnedmom

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agent hunting

cropped-books.jpgA few weeks ago I announced in a blog post that I intended to start looking for literary agents to submit my picture book manuscript to. As if by magic, I then received an email from Harry at Agent Hunter offering me a free subscription to their website in exchange for an honest review. It seemed like a highly sensible idea, so I said yes and signed up.

Was it a good idea? In a nutshell – yes. Here are my thoughts:

Agent Hunter claims to be “A simple way to find your literary agent or publisher.” and is basically a big, searchable, database of UK agents and publishers.

I used the ‘agent search’ section of the site so this review focuses mainly on that.

When you begin the agent search there are lots of different options for narrowing down your selection, for example by agent likes and dislikes, number of years experience, how many clients they represent and their accessibility (are they on twitter? Do they attend literary festivals etc). All very useful in terms of finding an agent who suits your style of writing and appeals to you.

I found the ‘genre’ option particularly useful – it narrowed down the type of books agents were looking for into three main groups (fiction, non-fiction and children) and then 24 sub-categories within those, so I was able to be really specific and pick only agents who represented picture books. I also liked the ‘client list status’ option which allows you to select either ‘keen to build client list’, ‘open to new clients’ or ‘client list largely complete’ and thus avoid approaching agents who simply aren’t on the look-out for new clients.

Once you’ve created your filtered list (and there are more options that I have space to mention here) you can save it to avoid faffing around again next time you log on. When you go through your agent list there is lots of useful information for each one including:

  • An ‘agency page’ which has biographical information about the agency they work for and lists all the agents who work there alongside submission advice and links to their websites and social media accounts. Of particular use here is the ‘standard response time’ which can vary a fair bit between agencies.
  • An ‘agent page’ which has biographical info about that particular agent and (of particular interest/use) personal information about some agents, such as their literary likes and dislikes and their passions.
  • A question and answer section (on the agent page) which – although not all agents have answered it –  could be very illuminating.
  • An ‘interesting links’ section. I loved this, as following these links could take you to all sorts of different information – agency news, interviews with the agent, articles about their clients success – really anything that gave you a flavour of what this particular agent was about.

All this information gives you a pretty good idea about whether you’d like to submit to an agent and, if you would, you can add them to your shortlist.

A quick look at the ‘publisher search’ part of the site reveals that there are also plenty of useful ways to refine your search in this section too, including ‘type of publisher’ and an ‘accepts un-agented submissions’ option which I can imagine being very useful if you’re thinking of approaching publishers directly.

Sounds good – you might be thinking – only couldn’t I just type ‘literary agents’ into google and come up with the same list? Well sort of, but when you do that (and I’ve tried) you end up with loads of agencies. You then have to search them for different agents and try and work out if the agency, or anyone within it, is looking for your sort of book. It would take much longer.

Also, having had a good trawl through lots of agents sites there was certainly information on Agent Hunter that I couldn’t actually find on the agents websites. Agent Hunter has collected information that can help you to be better informed.

Is it a perfect site? Not entirely (is anything?). I would really have liked to have had ‘location’ as part of the search function. Not everyone lives in London (the site itself acknowledges this) and it would have been nice to search for ‘agents in Northern England’ (even though these are few and far between, it seems!). If this information was even on the initial list of agents details, that would be useful but instead I had to click through to the agency information on each page to find where they were located.

I also found in one instance that an agent with a ‘closed client list’ was on my list of agents ‘keen to build client list’, and I suspect there are always going to be little details like that that sneak through the net. Things change, and I suppose the site can’t be totally up-to-date with everyone all the time!

These are very small gripes though in what is ultimately an incredibly useful website. When approaching agents you really want to be sure that they are a good match for you and I definitely felt better equipped and more confident having used this site. I have a shortlist of agents I’d like to approach and I’m not scared to use it!

I should probably mention the cost, which is £5 for a month’s subscription, £8 for six months or £12 for a year. I got a subscription for free but I can honestly say that, for the amount of time it has saved me and the extra information it contained, I would have been willing to pay. My thanks to Harry for giving me the subscription.

Finally, here’s some useful advice (taken from the Agent Hunter site) for any of us currently looking for an agent.

“Be persistent: agents make decisions about whom to represent for very different, personal and specific reasons. Your manuscript just needs to land on the right agent’s desk at the right time. It’s alchemy, really, magic but unpredictable. Make absolutely sure that the first few pages of the manuscript or sample chapters are impeccable and brilliant. We read thousands of submissions and we make important judgements (and, yes, decisions) on the first few pages, so they need to be very, very good.”

Tim Bates, Pollinger
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limerick challenge #20

Over the last year I’ve written masses of limericks. It started one December morning with a limerick I wrote about my son’s imaginary grasshopper and evolved into a ‘limerick challenge’ where I wrote (for a while, weekly) limericks on a subject of both my sons’ choosing and they provided the illustrations. But I got so hooked on limericks I wrote more and more. Some were even published a few months ago in an anthology by IRON press.

I’ve now reached my twentieth limerick challenge and to mark the occasion I decided to do something a bit different. Instead of taking inspiration from my kids, I asked  Chrissie from Muddled Manuscript to provide a subject for my latest rhyme. She chose a tricky one for me so I figured it was only fair she provided the illustration. So, without further ado, here’s a platypus limerick, artfully illustrated, of course!

platypus

A young, insecure duck-billed platypus

Believed she was more of a ‘fatty-pus’

Said her friends “Don’t be dim,

Your shape helps you swim!

Besides which, we think you are fabulous!”

 

Hope you like it!

If anyone else would like to take up the limerick challenge just supply me with a theme. You will, however, also need to provide an illustration. Otherwise it’s cheating. Hehe.

Linking up with Prose for Thought and the Wonderful World of Writing
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Prose for Thought

limerick challenge #19

dracula

It’s Halloween this friday so I just had to do a spooky limerick challenge! As usual my sons (aged 7 and 5) provided the inspiration and the illustrations:

 

There once was a vampire called Dracula

Whose blood-sucking skills were spectacular

Till once day he took

A swipe at a cook

And was staked through the heart with a spatula.

 

A cook (with bakers hat) staking Dracula. In pointilistic style - which seems apt...

A cook (with bakers hat) staking Dracula. In pointilistic style – which seems appropriate (point… geddit?)

Prose for Thought

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block

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 20.50.41I wanted to link up with the #wonderfulworldofwriting today so once the baby was napping I sat down to write something. But no words came. One cup of tea later – still no words. A bag of wotsits – nope.

Grapes, they’re good for the brain right? Well possibly, but not mine. Not this morning anyway.

After forty-five minutes I decided to focus on something else. #ThePrompt this week is ‘joy’. That’s a good topic; surely I could write about that?

Nope.

Oh I know,  I wrote that lovely poem after my last baby was born didn’t I? The one about how amazing I felt in those first few blissful hours after his birth? I could use that in a blog post about joy. That would work.

Well yes it might if the poem was any good. Turns out it’s not though. Damn.

Oh hang on though… there was that one I wrote about motherhood…

Yes, yes, but look –  it’s also a big heap of steaming turd.

Aaarrgh! How can I have writers block so bad it’s gone retroactive? Not only can I not write, I also now couldn’t in the past! What to dooooo?

Write. That’s what you’re supposed to do. Write through the block. Write a blog post to linkup with the #wonderfulworldofwriting.

BUT THAT’S WHAT I WAS JUST TRYING TO DO!

Oh, just shut up and write. Bet you can get something down if you throw yourself at it and don’t really care if you sound a bit crazy.

See. Told you.
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connectivity and creativity

image (36)I’m addicted to my smart phone. I use it all the time to check Twitter, Facebook, emails and texts, to comment on blogs, surf the net and take masses of photos. I even occasionally use it to make a phone call…

But two weeks ago – SHOCK, HORROR – it broke. Just completely, catastrophically died. No hope of resuscitation (or not by me, anyway).

I’ll take it into the phone shop in town, I thought that first day. But I didn’t get round to it – there was too much else going on. It was a bit frustrating but fine. It was only a problem when I was out of the house anyway as I have a laptop at home. It wasn’t like I was cut-off from technology, I just didn’t have it at my fingertips every second of the day.

On the second phone free day I thought, Hmm, shall I make that trip into town? Nah. I couldn’t quite be bothered.

On the third day I realised that the reason I hadn’t been to the phone shop yet was that, actually, I was rather liking not having my phone with me. I felt free. And I also realised (in the way you notice how often you check your watch on the day you forget to put it on and find yourself constantly confronted by a jarringly empty patch of skin) that I check the blasted thing far too often. At the school gate, in the queue at the local shop… even in the car waiting at the traffic lights. So I decided I’d just leave it for a while and see how I got on without it.

What I’ve found is that (surprise, surprise) without my phone I’ve had time to notice other things. As I sat waiting for friends to join us at the park (oh, ok, it was the local ice cream parlour if you must know) instead of continually glancing at a little screen in my hand I just sat and watched what was going on. I watched my sons playing rather than just looking up to check they were ok. I watched other kids rushing around. I watched the sky and the wind in the trees and I noticed the landscape. It felt peaceful.

And I felt like I’d somehow found a bit of creative inspiration I’d previously been lacking. Because actually, all those little periods of time we spend in queues or traffic jams or waiting for kids or friends, are the times when – if we look closely – life is happening. Not the huge, great, exciting, dramatic things, but the tiny, every day pieces of normality. And as a writer those moments are so important: they can spark ideas, help us flesh out characters in stories we’re writing or just suggest little details to add to our work. They are the seemingly insignificant moments that, if captured, give our books a ring of truth.

Anyway, it turns out my phone is beyond all hope so, am I forsaking the concept of a smart phone forever? Skipping into the wild blue yonder with only hope and a messenger pigeon?

Oh, of course not! BUT once I get my shiny, new little technological friend I’m going to be keeping it firmly in my bag when I’m out of the house, only to be used if I really need it. Promise.

How about you? Do you like to be connected to social media constantly? Are you contactable at all times? Could you (do you?) live without a smart phone?
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character development

typewriter characterOne of the (many) things I’ve loved so far about our #WhatImWriting linky has been finding out about the ways other writers develop their work. Two recent posts by Sadie and Nicola described an interesting process where they had taken characters from their books and put them into different situations to see how they’d react. The idea with this is that you can learn more about your characters than you could just keeping them within the confines of your book. And the more you learn about them, the more real they seem in your writing which is a very good thing for the reader.

I’ve been struggling with my book recently so I thought I’d have a go at this exercise to see if it got me past the block. I decided to explore a scene in my main character’s past. Eighteen years into her past to be precise! It’s not an extract from my book but writing it has revealed things about my characters that I wasn’t aware of. Here’s what I wrote:

“Is it time? Do you want me to call them?” Sam’s anxious face was close to her own, his breath hot in her ear.

Irritably she swiped him away. “Just… wait.” She said through gritted teeth “It’s nearly… ” She exhaled and slowly stood upright again, rubbing the small of her back with both hands in a steady circular motion. “Right,” she looked at him, “how long was that between contractions?”

“Oh, um, I’m not sure, I lost count.”

“Sam!” She snapped “You had one job!”

He dragged a hand through his tousled blond hair and gave her a weak smile. “I know, I’m sorry. I’m not much good at this.”

Staring into his worried, brown eyes Ruth felt a flash of sympathy for him; she knew he felt out of his depth. He was normally so organised and together. ‘Sam the man with the plan’ was what she had teasingly called him in the early days of their relationship – he always knew exactly what was happening in his life and when. His marriage proposal was organised down to the tiniest detail: even the sun had come out on cue. But this was one area where his plans didn’t seem to count for much.

Of course they had a birth plan, just as they had done with Tilly eighteen months earlier. Ruth had painstakingly created it herself based on that experience – all natural if possible, no drugs, overanxious relatives to be kept at bay – and Sam had crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s before she’d placed it in her maternity notes. But, well, anyone would think this baby didn’t know about the plan, because here they were on day three of the painful, exhausting, stop-start ‘is it actually going anywhere this time?’ contractions and she was already thinking fondly of diamorphine.

“Now!” she barked more harshly than she intended and gripped the doorframe as she felt another contraction building.

“What? Now? Oh.” And he peered at his watch as though his life depended on it.

Ruth breathed her way through it. They were getting strong now, maybe this time it was going somewhere. As her muscles relaxed again she looked up at Sam questioningly.

“Forty-five seconds that time… and five minutes since the last contraction I think. Do you want me to call the midwife now?” He stroked her back tenderly and she leaned into him.

“Yes. Good idea.” She said wearily. She wanted to add an apology for snapping at him but the words wouldn’t come. They were tangled up with the heaviness of her limbs and the ache in her back. She had no energy for explanations, besides which, Sam would know she was sorry and he’d understand. Ruth smiled at him weakly as she watched him on the phone across the room. He was a good man, just perhaps not the best in an emergency situation.

She groaned and leaned forwards as the vice round her insides started to squeeze again. Then there was a sudden rush of hot liquid down her trembling legs. Dammit. “Sam!” she said urgently “Tell them to get here now!”

I wrote this in an hour or so yesterday and I’ve not edited it much so it’s still a bit clunky. Writing it was an interesting process though. I knew Sam was the highly organised sort and that he had an anxious streak but I didn’t think he’d react quite like this. I actually like him more now than I did before.

What do you think? How do you develop your characters?

Nikki Young Writes