TCWT Blog Chain: Learn by Example

I promise this blog is actually going to have posts on it soon. I promise. Even if it’s just crying about editing, I will get something down.


This month’s blog chain poses the question:

“What works of fiction have taught you by example, and what did they teach you?”

I’m going to cop out as I always do and say that everything I read teaches me something, whether it’s what sort of story I want to write, what cliches to avoid, at what point in a series one must give up the ghost and wrap the poor thing up, etc.

The books I learn the most from, though, are the absolutely terrible ones.

I don’t read as much as I used to or should do, but about four or five years ago, my mum started buying me really cheap Kindle books so she could keep up with the demand I set. I read at a ridiculous pace — often I’d be reading one or two books per week — and I was reading my family out of house and home. So, as I said, my mum bought me some really cheap books.

I used to berate my mum for buying these books. They were cheap because they were self-published, sometimes seemingly unedited, and they were always the first book in what had to be a painfully long series. I hated reading these books, but it was them or nothing and I had morals about only putting down a book if I absolutely had to, so I read them.

And as I read them, I started to learn a few things. The first thing I learnt was that I absolutely hated typos, but the others were more useful than that. I started to get a feel for the pattern behind story-telling (although I’m still not entirely certain that I can replicate it in my own writing), I started to learn what my cringe-level was (because when books got too cringy, they were a lost cause), and I started to notice what I like to call story-telling gaps.

Whatever writing-based site you go on, they’re always going to have a post about how to ‘show, not tell’, but they never mention that you have to strike a balance — or at least do one or the other. These story-telling gaps were where the authors had been so focused on not telling that either they forgot to do the showing, or the showing just wasn’t clear enough. It doesn’t happen often, because people generally tell more, but every now and again I find a gap in a story. Often it seems like the author’s brain is just racing ahead as they write, and they can’t be bothered explaining why exactly the fairies are circling and what that actually means because surely that’s obvious. It’s never obvious to me though.

Noticing these gaps can be really helpful when editing (although chances are that beta readers will be better at catching them than the writer is) because it makes you aware of every little thing you’ve written. It’s also probably why people find it most effective to wait a while before editing, I think, because then you can’t remember the logic anymore — you can’t remember all the rules of fairy world, so when you read it back, you’re as clueless as your readers would be as to why the fairies are circling.

I learnt something even more important to me than story-telling gaps, though — that I really don’t want to half-bake my novels and publish them on the cheap.

December 2014 blog chain prompt/schedule:





















25th – [off-day]





30th and

31st – (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)

TCWT Blog Chain: Teendom & Words

So, I lied about being more active on this blog. Sorry about that. However, if there’s one thing I didn’t let anyone down on, it was remembering about this post before the day I had to do it and planning out what I was going to do. I definitely did that. And I definitely found marker pens that would show up on camera.

Yeah, that’s a lie. Sorry.


This month’s blog chain prompt is:

Use pictures and individual words to show what, to you, is the essence of being a teenager. 

I decided to write some words and hold them up because it’s quite hard to take artsy shots with a terrible phone or your laptop camera, so here they are:



I became a giraffe after my thirteenth birthday.

I became a giraffe after my thirteenth birthday.

If someone worked out how long I'd spent reading during my teens...

If someone worked out how long I’d spent reading during my teens…

The rest of the schedule:

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24th – (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)

TCWT Blog Chain: Movies Movies Movies

Hello again — long time no see! I’m sure you’ve missed me terribly, but the good news is that exams are over, I’m full of ideas, and you’re probably going to be seeing a lot more of me! Yay (groans from everyone everywhere)!

tcwt-3It’s that time again — time for the Teens Can Write Too blog chain! This month’s prompt:

“What are your thoughts on book-to-movie adaptions? Would you one day want your book made into a movie, or probably not?”

Yep, we’ve been given a difficult one this month.

There’s something ridiculously thrilling about hearing that your favourite book is becoming a film. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I have some theories, such as that it’s much easier to drag a friend to the cinema than it is to make them read a book when they’re not reading-inclined, and the fact that it getting a film means that it’s not just you that loves it. Whatever it is, it makes you fangirl for a good few hours when you find out (or at least, that’s the case for me).

The problem, though, is that book adaptations never go well — not for everyone, at least. It might be nice to get your friends hooked on a brilliant author and a great film series, it might be interesting to see your favourite characters on screen doing the things that you’ve always loved imagining them doing, but the film isn’t your imagination — it’s not going to be ‘everything you’ve imagined’, even if you’re the one that’s written the screenplay, directed and produced it. There’ll always be something that you don’t quite like, whether it’s the modifications to the ending (looking at you, City of Bones), the insta-love (looking at you, Divergent, and you yet again, City of Bones), or the fact that it’s no longer going to be shown in cinemas in your country (I can’t even bear to look at you, Vampire Academy — and it’s a good job, since I’m unable to). A book-to-movie adaptation is never quite going to be perfect, and when you stop fangirling, you realise that. You realise it, and wonder if any of the emotional trauma is even worth it.

To be honest, I don’t think it is. City of Bones was horrific, Divergent just reminded me why the book was simply enjoyable and not mind-blowing, and Vampire Academy… well, I was perfectly happy with six books and a spin-off series; I didn’t need to know that I was missing a film that, from the small bits I’ve seen of it, doesn’t seem that great. The only adaptation I can think of that I actually enjoyed was Twilight, but liking the book in the first place shows how deluded I was at that point in my life. (Note: I haven’t yet been able to watch The Book Thief, and I am absolutely terrified that it won’t be any good when I do.)


So, onto the second part of the prompt. Would I like my book to be made into a film?

I’ve always thought no, even in my Twilight-and-enjoying-adaptations phase. The idea of someone casting people as my characters makes me feel sick. Writers are very often left to watch the production of their baby in the same way as the fans are — with no control. The idea of someone else deciding who looks most like Harry or Terri or Sash or Elijah, the idea of a person saying ‘oh yes, you act exactly like them’ when they don’t know any more about how they act than what they gleaned from a quick read-through of the script is horrific. Besides which, these people are in my head. They weren’t made to be seen or be tangible. They’re not supposed to be real to anyone but me. To me, having someone play one of my characters would be like someone reading my mind — it’s not supposed to happen. I love my characters for their flaws, for their silly way of thinking, for their fears and hopes and dreams. In my head, and on paper, I can get that across (to some degree, at least). But you don’t get that inner monologue in a film. All you get is their behaviour and whatever the actor can get across in their expressions and the way they do things — and that’s unlikely to be enough (especially when your characters, like mine, are likeable only because their thoughts make it possible to empathise with them slightly). No matter how much the script writer, producer, editor, casting people understand my vision, they’re not me, so they wouldn’t be able to understand it fully. Even if they did, how likely is it to be marketable to a wider audience? I’d say there’s very little chance that everything I understand my novel to be would be something the marketing folks would jump at; something would be unpalatable or too uncomfortable, and the edges would be rounded so that the General Public didn’t recoil in horror. The rawness I love would be thrown out in place of getting more money or a lower age rating, and it would be awful and the exact opposite I could have wanted it to be.

In short: I dislike the adaptations of other people’s novels but I would hate the adaptation of my own.


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28th – – The topic for July’s blog chain will be announced.


TCWT Blog Chain: Publish More Books!

I apologise if you’ve noted my absence — the next month or so is exam season, so you probably won’t see me often.


Yes, ladies, gentlemen, and rebels without a cause — the blog chain is back up and running for business! This month’s theme:


What kinds of published books would you like to see more of?

If there’s anything that A-Level maths has taught me, it’s that there are endless possibilities, an infinity of infinities, and an absolute mountain of books that need to be published. Well, maybe it didn’t teach me that last part, but you probably catch my drift — for every book you can find on the shelves, there are a million more that haven’t been written yet, or just haven’t been published yet — may never be published, just because of the genre or ‘kind’ they fit into.

So let’s get back to the question and look at the types of books I would like to see more of — not the ones that haven’t been written, but the ones that we’re not able to read.

  1. Type Number One: Minorities
    I don’t know many figures, but I imagine that much of the world — a majority, even — is part of a minority, whether that be the LGBTQ…etc community, a racial minority, a religious minority, a disability, a mental illness… the list goes on. So why are all our novels (as always, I’m thinking about YA in particular) about a majority character? Why are the minorities, if present at all, side-kicks? And, on the rare occasion that you read a novel with someone of a minority as the protagonist, why is it that they have to ‘get past’ their ‘problem’ in some way? We live in a diversifying culture, so why doesn’t our literature reflect that? Why can’t I pick up a book about a gay black guy battling literal demons from the same shelf as I pick up a book about a young deaf girl who finds it amusing to sign insults at the zombies as she runs away from them? Why do the few books we have about people who are ‘different’ get separated into weird genres specifically down to the orientation/religion/race/disability of the main character? Why can’t we just read books about people?
  2. Type Number Two: Odd
    I’ve read a lot of books in my time, and after a while of reading the same genre, I start to see a pattern — a story arc or character set that I can only presume are what the publishers are most comfortable with and seem like a safe financial bet. If you like familiarity but can’t stand to re-read, this is great. Brilliant. The best thing to ever happen. But in the end, ‘commercially viable’ begins to be a synonym for ‘boring’, and you realise you want something you can’t guess the plot of. It doesn’t even have to be good — you just want change. It’s one of the main reasons that this blog has hardly any book reviews — I just haven’t been reading, and when I have, it’s been boring. The same as ever. I want to be able to go into a bookshop that is so full of weird stuff that it can’t begin to be categorised into ‘fantasy’, ‘contemporary’, ‘romance’, or anything as mundane as that. I want to be overwhelmed by choice and pick a book completely at random, because even the blurb can’t tell me how the story will end. And then I want to read it. And hate it. And go back to that bookshop and try again. I don’t want marketable; I want interesting.

There are probably a thousand other things I want to see in books, but I won’t go on. You’ve probably realised by now why I rambled on about maths at the very start of this post — I want the ‘types’ of books I read to be an infinity of infinities in every possible way. What do I want to see published? Every bit of writing under the sun, and quite a lot more that no one’s yet dared to write.

It’s not much to ask, is it?

Blog Chain Schedule:

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May 26th – TheUnsimpleMind – link to come

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May 29th –

May 30th – – We’ll announce the topic for June’s blog chain!

Walls Part Four

For those of you, like me, who have completely forgotten what happened in this (like I did), you can find the last little section of this serial-thing here.

“Aleks!” Tom shouted as he watched his friend walk out of the flat. He put a hand to his head and sighed — he’d really messed this up. And now he was going to have to do something drastic, like tie Aleks up in the hope that he’d have more difficulty escaping or hurting himself.

He followed his friend out of the flat and onto the stairs that would take him down and out into the real world. Aleks was stood on the first step down, his hands trembling.

“Just come back inside, Al. It’s not safe for you out here.”

“Nowhere’s safe,” he said, his voice constricted. “That stupid little bedsit isn’t any less dangerous than outside — I can still get hurt from in there. I can still be betrayed.

“But you’re a lot less likely to be killed,” Tom pointed out drily. “So why don’t we go back inside? I can leave, if that’s what you want. I’ll go stay with Tam, and just come here to bring you shopping and the like.” That was never going to happen; he couldn’t trust Aleks when he was in this condition. But somehow, the lies just kept building up. “If you’d prefer, I can try and find you a bigger flat.”

He shook his head. “Why can’t it be me that leaves, for once? Why can’t it be me that has control over where they are and who they see and who sees them?” His hands curled into fists.

Tom sighed. “You know why. When the Revolution–”

He snorted. “The revolution? You really think that’s actually going to happen? They burned him at the stake and no one gave a shit, Tom. Do you think some puny little group of do-gooders can really fight that? No, they can’t. It’s just going to end with all of us dead — so I might as well speed the process up a bit.” He stepped onto the second step.

“No, Aleks. Tam can do this. And you know why? Because she has you as her martyr. Her people make up nearly twenty per cent of the Fey population. And it’s all because of you — because we all remember what it was to be human, and to have that stolen away. We know that we need to care for the newly turned, not punish them for breaking rules that are still foreign to them.” Tom took a small step forward, careful not to do anything that might spook Aleks into running. He could have just grabbed the kid — he was strong enough — but he’d learnt from experience that if Aleks didn’t work out his problems now, he’d work them out at another time, most likely when he wasn’t there to help.

“Martyrs tend to be dead, Tom. And I wasn’t the one who came out worst, was I? Why isn’t he the martyr?”

Tom rolled his eyes at his own idiocy. Why didn’t he see this one coming? “Let’s just talk about it inside, okay?”

Aleks turned round, his eyes burning and his face red. “No. Why isn’t Rath the martyr, Tom? Tell me.”

“You know he and Tam had a bit of a rocky relationship, Al. She just found it easier to remember you than him.”

He shook his head. “No. No, that’s not it. You’re lying again. Why, Tom?”

This was going to go badly. He stepped forward, his hands placating but ready to grab Aleks when he bolted. “No one liked him, okay? That’s it. They weren’t going to rally around someone they were pretty glad was dead.”

“No! You’re lying!”

“Aleksandr –” Tom began, but Aleks had already grabbed his hands and was pulling him forward.

“You’re lying,” he whispered, letting go of Tom’s hands just as he was stepping forwards to regain his balance. He lost his equilibrium and fell down the stairs.

Break My Bones

‘Sticks and Stones’, that’s what you say —
Emotional pain is nothing
To the Bully, the Liar, the Friend who’s become wolves’ clothing.
The person I didn’t know you’d be.

But you don’t know what I feel
Because it’s inside me.
And these walls between who we are
And what the world expects
Are hard to break down, even for
The wolf in friend’s clothing, the person you trust.
Still, I let them fall.
Just for a moment.

I let myself fall.

The sneers and the fear,
I opened myself up to every last bit of it.
I stood there in front of you, bleeding and broken
As I had been since the day I’d realised
That love was a four-letter-word
When you asked for acceptance.

I stood there in front of you
Honest as I’d never truly been
And you laughed.

I cried.

But not on the outside; no
I’d already made that mistake once.
I cried on the inside and my heart became petrified.
I shut myself up behind those walls,
Those walls that had felt so suffocating before
And were now all that kept me safe.

But it was too late; you’d seen behind
These walls, and you knew me.
Or you thought you did –You were clever enough to see the tears, at least, and you said,
‘Sticks and Stones.’

‘Sticks and Stones’, as if that changed my life,
As if you really meant an olive branch and my heart.
‘Sticks and Stones’? How about
Hatred? How about hatred of yourself,
Fear of yourself — lack of a self to hate or fear
Because you’ve hidden it behind so many walls
That even you can’t find it?
That you don’t even want to find it?

If I told you what you’d done,
Would you still laugh?
Would you look at my walls differently?
Or would you laugh and say ‘Sticks and Stones’?

If I was brave enough, I’d explain it to you,
Break down the walls with a hammer of my own self-confidence,
Throw the remnants at you and see how you liked
Your ‘Sticks and Stones’.
But I’m not brave enough.
Because of you.

One day, I won’t need sticks or stones
To make you see your mistake.
One day, I’ll just need my smile
And a glance that says ‘Do I know you?’

Until then, I suppose you’ll just keep breaking my bones.

Watch Out for the Canons, Moffat!

Sorry about the last few weeks — things at school sort of piled up. To make up for it, you will (possibly) be getting two updates this week! Yay!

Today, we are going to delve deeply into the philosophy of writing, so hold onto your hats and other precarious pieces of clothing as I ask you a very important question:

What is canon? Continue reading


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