Friday, 2 December 2016

Writing Course Review - Getting Published from Writer's HQ

The lovely ladies at Writer's HQ offered me a place on their Getting Published course, and I had to say yes. Having attended a number of their writing retreats in Brighton, I knew this course would be well worth my time.

This course is well worth investing in if you're getting ready to query, but aren't quite sure how to put your package together. It's an excellent confidence booster, too. And it's great if you're like me and have been querying for a while but haven't broken through. Once you've been sending a book out for a while, it's easy to think you don't need to learn anything new about querying. It's so easy to get really complacent. Taking a course like this has definitely shaken me out of my lull. I've regained my motivation, learned a thing or two about putting together a clearer synopsis, and faced up to the fact that yes, actually, I do need to do more editing before I resume querying (SO MUCH EDITING). The course taught me patience.

The course is split over six weeks, with specific work assigned each week. You can break it down into manageable chunks. I tended to do it in the mornings before work, although sometimes it did have to wait for the weekend. The best part has to be the forums, where you can meet your fellow writers and work with them to improve your query, synopsis and opening 500 words. Writing can be such a lonely experience, so I loved having a dedicated forum to log into where I could discuss the ups and downs of submitting. Only other writers can really understand the trials and tribulations of the querying process. If you sign up for the course, you absolutely must make the most out of the forums. I think you're missing out if you don't join in the discussions and the opportunity to get feedback on your work. It can be such a scary step - posting your work on a forum for others to see, but it can be just the step you need if you're hesitant to begin querying. And the course has plenty of advice for those of you who are nervous to make that big step, and those of us who are WAY TOO IMPATIENT OMG READ MY BOOK AGENTS! REEEEEEEEEEEEEAD IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!

I found the style of the written content really refreshing. It was breezy, friendly, and made excellent use of gifs. When was the last time you got to take an online course with gifs? I've taken a lot of distance learning this year for a few new qualifications, and this course was so much livelier and easier to engage with. It felt like reading an excellent series of blog posts, complete with videos from agents and authors offering tips on the submission process, and their experiences of it. And it's not just for those of us looking at the traditional agent path to publishing. There's advice on self-publishing or finding alternate routes to publication, such as entering competitions or submitting to smaller, dedicated indie publishers.

Our tutor, Jo, was helpful and encouraging, and I never felt like I was bothering her. She offered constructive criticism and made suggestions about my query that I never ever would've considered putting in the cover letter. I think I've gotten so used to the idea that my query has to only be about the story itself, that I leave out a lot of information about the creation of the story that's really important.

The great thing about it all being online is you don't have to travel anywhere further than your own computer to do everything. Yes, Writers' HQ also runs retreats in my hometown, but I know how expensive travelling to writing retreats and events can get. And what with the trains still being on strike down here on the south coast, getting to and from London can be a nightmare. Doing it all online via a website and forums means its far more accessible. And it's not just this Getting Published course. Writers' HQ have a huge range on offer. Definitely worth checking out to see if they have something that could help your writing develop further.

This course would make a great Christmas or birthday gift for yourself or the writers in your life. You can buy gift certificates at Writers' HQ's shop. Now would be the perfect time to suggest it to all the people who don't know what to get you ;)

You can find Writers' HQ on Twitter. They're well worth following, no matter where you are in the world :D

Wednesday, 30 November 2016


This is going to be my final Previously of 2016, as I like to do a review of the year in December. It's basically a prerequisite of internet blogging - you absolutely must upload a review of the year at the end of the given year.

Previously in Writing

So. Much. Editing. So, I am happy to announce that I have been offered a place at the Golden Egg Academy's Foundation Year course. I received an editorial report from them on the opening chapters of Conspiracy of Echoes, and suffice to say the advice was solid and I must implement it between now and January of next year. I am really excited about this :D Being told your writing has potential is fantastic, and I know if I can make this plot and character change, this book could make its way to bookshop shelves :D Here's to making 2017 a year of writing self-improvement.

Previously in Reading

Ten years after I first started reading it, I finally finished the Bleach manga. Aaaaaaaand, yeah, it wasn't the best. I kinda wish the manga had ended like the anime. The final arc of the manga had so much potential but it kinda ran out of energy. Ah well, Bleach at its best was still amazing. I shall always remember it fondly.

Next Time in Goals

My goal for this month was to get into the flow with my new job, and so far so good!

Oh, and I finally completed Dark Souls. Hooray!

December is going to be very, very busy and because I'm crazy, I'm aiming to have a finished draft of my Conspiracy of Echoes rewrite done by the end of the month... Emphasis on the *draft*. I need the first 5000 words ready for the Foundation year course I'll be starting in January, but I want a good draft of the whole book to work from, too...

A Word of Advice

If lots of people are making similar suggestions regarding your novel, listen and listen well. Don't shy away from rewrites just because it'll be hard work. If you can make your book even better than before, go for it!

Add a link to your Previously in the comments below :D

Friday, 25 November 2016

A Character Edit

Firstly, apologies for the silence this month. I've just started a new job, which means I now have two jobs, so I'm wrapping my head around all of that right now. I am becoming a highly organised individual! I have work emails for the first time in five years, diaries to manage, meetings to attend and all sorts! It's terribly exciting :P And yeah, I still have my nannying job, so I'm a little bit busy right now. Rest assured I will continue blogging whenever I find the time.

Time like I have today!

I am once again plunging into an edit, but this time I have a very particular focus - my main character. As a part of the course I'm working on, I've had to go over my query and my synopsis again, and one thing became clear based on the feedback - my main character needed better motivation. Or, rather, I needed to make it clearer to see. I mean, I know her motivation really well. But I haven't made it obvious to the reader. Right now, her motivation is a bit meh. I think it's a huge part of why I haven't gotten past the querying stage.

Having not read or edited this book for several months, I've got the distance I need to see these things and make them better. Yes, it means I'm doing the inevitable 'how did I miss this awfulness before?!' self doubt thing, but you know how it goes. You could edit a book for the rest of time and still find better ways of doing things.

I've always struggled to take time out from a manuscript, but 2016 really forced me to do exactly that, and I think it could be just what my WIP needs to help me find an agent.

Once more into the editing cave I go...

Friday, 4 November 2016

Motivation, You Pain In My Arse

My motivation has been conspicuously absent lately. I'm not writing anything new, and I'm only managing one blog post a week. Why? Actually, I have a really, really good reason. Multiple good reasons. 2016 has been dedicated to seeking a career adaptation. I say adaptation because I'm not entirely changing what I do. In fact, I'll still be doing my current job. I'll just be training new childcarers, too. But the truth is I thought I would've had this career move back in the spring. Unfortunately, it took six months to find my new job. My mind has been completely absorbed with that, rather than focusing on writing. I even paused querying because I haven't had the mental space for it. Quite frankly, I spent the summer being rejected on multiple fronts, and something had to give. I honestly can't remember how many jobs I applied to and didn't get, but throwing agent rejections into the mix as well was madness. So I stopped querying and decided to take time out from the whole thing. Now I've sorted out my employment situation, I can focus on building up my energy to resume querying.

I'm not throwing myself straight back into it. I'm doing an online course (full review coming as soon as I've finished), and I'm also waiting to see if I've made it into the Golden Egg Academy. Basically, I'm investing something extra into Ghost!Story. I love this book so damn much, and I want to give it my all. Unless something really unexpected happens, I doubt I'll resume querying in 2016.

It feels so good to take this time out. If there's one positive to take away from the summer, it's that I managed to completely emotionally detach from the entire querying process. It's given me the patience to wait to query, rather than rushing. I've been so preoccupied, the publishing world fell off my radar entirely. But I still want my book to find a home somewhere. I've had personalised rejections, so I have to be onto something. And these writing courses are giving me the emotional boost I've needed all year long. My point, quite simply, is that it's a great idea to invest in your writing when you need a morale booster. I still don't have any new ideas, but I'm not ready to leave behind the old one yet. And this writing course I'm on is definitely the kick up the arse my motivation needed.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Concert Review - Taylor Davis

On Tuesday night, I went up to Camden to see Taylor Davis live in concert. For those of you who are unfamiliar with her, she’s a violinist known for covering videogame, film and anime music, as well as producing her own original music. And she was fantastic. I was so inspired by her talent. The way she leaps across the strings is mesmerising. And the music was so good. I loved hearing not only her covers, but her original music, too. Her new album, Odyssey, sounds amazing.

As you guys know, I love hearing live videogame music, and I was not disappointed. Taylor performed an explosive version of Cosmo Canyon from Final Fantasy VII. I know I wasn’t the only person in the crowd bopping along. And it was so good hearing Song of Storms from her Zelda cover album. It’s a favourite of mine, and she performed it beautifully. Now I need Breath of the Wild even more than I already did!

I really appreciated how Taylor took the time to talk to the crowd. Nerds unite indeed! She explained why she played the kind of music she did, she talked to us about the violin she was playing with (a very cool black carbon fibre violin!), and related her experiences of being bullied at school and using videogames to escape it. That definitely resonated with me. I really appreciated her honesty. I wish I’d had the time to stay after the show to meet her, or had booked tickets early enough to go to her pre-show meet and greet, but alas, I had to catch the train home to Brighton.

Taylor Davis’ tour continues across Europe and the US for the next couple of months. Check dates here. If you get the chance to go, you should definitely hear her perform. She’s incredibly talented, and I for one had a brilliant evening hearing her play.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016


Welcome to this month's Previously. It'd be awesome if you could share your writing and reading month, too. You can leave a link to your post in the comments.

Previously in Writing

The lovely people at Writers' HQ offered me a place on their Getting Published: Submitting Your Manuscript course. It's already brilliant. I'll post a full review once I've completed it. I am especially excited to reach the synopsis section of the course. It's a distance learning course, complete with a forum where I can chat to my fellow students and the course instuctors. If you're looking for a writing course, but can't commit to the travelling (a lot seem to be based in London over here), Writers' HQ could be what you're looking for. Check out their courses here.

Good luck to all you NaNoers next month. I hope you manage to write all the words. All of them. Every word.

Previously in Reading

A sloooooow month for reading anything that isn't sheet music, honestly ^^; I'm reading Goldenhand by Garth Nix, the latest in his Old Kingdom series. I'm definitely enjoying it a lot more than Clariel. 

Next Time in Goals

Last time, my goal was to keep practicing the violin. I've definitely done that and played daily. Orchestra was a lot of fun this month, and I even performed in my first concert :D And last night I went to London to see Taylor Davis live in concert. She was amazing. I'm definitely inspired, so one goal is to keep playing daily! And I'll get a review up of her show asap, because London was only the second stop. Plenty of you will have the chance to see her, and you absolutely should.

My main November goal is to get to grips with my new job! I'm going to be working as a NVQ assessor alongside my childcare work. Basically, I'm training childcare students. Hooray! It took a long, long time to get this job, but I did it and I'm so proud of myself.

(And maybe complete Dark Souls after nearly a year of playing it... maybe. Maaaaaaaaybe. No Rise of the Tomb Raider until it's done!)

A Word of Advice

Don't give up. Whether it's writing or, in my case this year, trying to find a new job, sometimes you have to settle in for a long journey.

Please leave a link to your post in the comments below :D

Friday, 21 October 2016

What's Your Iconic Videogame Music?

After Symphonic Fantasies, I found myself thinking about what's the most iconic videogame music for me. What's the music that best represents a game or a franchise I love? Music that I can go back to time and time again and find inspiration as well as good memories.

So, here's a very small selection of gaming music I love. I have put them in order of when I played them for the first time.

Sonic the Hedgehog Three

Okay, that one is super nostalgic. Nothing else, just mega nostalgic. It's like I'm back at junior school.

Resident Evil

I've chosen the 1996 original. When I heard this for the first time, it stuck in my head and never let go. I go back to this score all the time when I'm working on my Ghost!Story series. I chose the Save Room Theme because even though hearing it you knew you were safe, there's still an undercurrent of threat to the piece because the second you step back through that door, the zombies will come for you...

Tomb Raider

I've gone with a piece from 1997's Tomb Raider II because I love it, and I can't wait to hear it live. Nathan McCree posted a preview of how Vertigo will sound with an orchestra and I am soooo excited!!! The Tomb Raider scores were the first I 'owned' because they came on the game discs. I have no idea how I discovered this, but I remember recording my favourites onto tape so I could listen to them on my Walkman. It was the 90s, okay? :P

Final Fantasy VII

It had to be the first Final Fantasy game I ever played because it's how I discovered Nobuo Uematsu's amazing work. Not only can you get amazing orchestral versions of his music thanks to the Distant Worlds and Final Symphony recordings, but also the Materia Collective have put together two fantastic cover albums of music from Final Fantasy VII and VIII. I highly recommend both.

Silent Hill 

I can't tell you how many stories I have written over the years with music from Silent Hill playing in the background. I chose a piece from 1999's original game, because I love those deep, tolling notes. It's quiet, almost soothing, but there's a real menace to it. It's a favourite for sure.

Kingdom Hearts

I am so excited for 2017's Kingdom Hearts concert in London. It is going to be soooo good. I've gone with Another Side, Another Story, because I will never forget the first time I saw the trailer it was attached to. I had just finished the original game, waaaaay back in 2003, and I saw this on a fan website. Remember, 2003 was pre-Youtube. I was totally blown away, and couldn't wait to get my hands on Kingdom Hearts II... which I waited three years for.  All of you Sherlock fans complain about waiting. You've got nothing on Kingdom Hearts fans. *Nothing*.

Also, true story, back when I was at university in 2005, I went into an empty lecture hall, hooked my laptop up to the cinema sized screen, and watched this trailer. It was amazing.

I had to go with music from Uncharted 3, because I love it so damn much and I go back to this score all the time. Yes, it's as cinematic as they say. I just want to sit down and write action and adventure stories every time I listen. And then I want to replay the game :P

The Last of Us

The score is so stark, and every time I hear it, I feel every single emotion of the game all over again. Honestly, if you have a PS3 or 4 and haven't played this game, you need to. You can shout at me later for the feels you will endure, but it is amazing. I've done a lot of editing with this soundtrack lately.

Everybody's Gone to the Rapture

This game (or walking simulator if you prefer) is so haunting, and a huge part of that is the music. It's like nothing I've ever heard in a game before and it is beautiful. I love to listen to it and write little scenes or moments. Nothing in particular, just moments or emotions inspired by the music I want to explore for myself.

So, there's a handful of my iconic music. What's yours?