NaNoWriMo – The Result

It’s the evening of the 28th November, which means in a few days’ time December is going to roll around and the fear of Christmas is going to be instilled into every retail worker, present buyer and Father Christmas roleplayer (I imagine. I wonder how many Santas are sicked on every year? I’m sure it’s more than you’d think.)

Naturally, I didn’t keep up the momentum of NaNoWriMo I started and was so determined to persist with throughout. At about the 1/3 mark, I’d done a hell of a lot: developed this whole host of characters’ personalities and back stories; created a whole fictional city as my setting; not only had I planned the main plot but managed to weave a subplot in there too. It was all going so well.

Then…life happened. I started working 6 day weeks of 40+ hours, using my days off to visit friends in Cardiff and London (for the train journeys foregoing my laptop in favour of a book) and generally just being very tired whenever I had a spare five minutes. I could make excuses all day long as to why I’ve only written about 10,000 words, but that’s the crux of it. I’m just so damn tired all the time, and the looming thought of writing an entire novel was just too much to cope with when an alternative evening involved much simpler, unwinding activities, such as watching a series of The IT Crowd or catching up on I’m A Celebrity…! with a takeaway.

I’m not disheartened though. For the first time in my life, I’ve begun a project that I’m actually excited about and want to see through to the end. I daydream about my characters while I’m steaming away at cappuccino milk behind the bar. I’ve found myself constructing pictures of scenes in my head from turning points in the plot and stringing together exchanges between characters in my head, finding the right words to convey the exact nature of their relationships with one another. I think this means, one way or another, this novel will get written and it’ll be the piece of work I’m proudest of.

So I’m not disappointed. I haven’t exactly won NaNoWriMo, but I haven’t lost either, so I can’t tell if that’s a win-win or not. It probably is. Who knows.

Until next time,

Emma x

The Life of a Twenty-Something || dodie ‘Intertwined’ EP review

Okay before we hop into the review I just want to do a little PSA to let you know I’m now a contributor for MyTrendingStories (it’s clicky, go on!) and this review is my first post over there. I’ll be posting something for them weekly as well as posting here when I can and I’d really appreciate support and feedback for the articles I upload on a Proper Website (ooh ahh scary stuff)

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I don’t know how she does it. With every original song she posts to her channel, YouTuber Dodie Clark manages to create relatable, heartfelt music, with the exact string of lyrics and melodies to hit the nail on the head of how it feels to live through the things she’s singing about. Naturally, when Dodie announced the release of her first EP ‘Intertwined’, I hopped right on the bandwagon and pre-ordered my download straight away.

After its UK release on November 18, I’ve had the EP on repeat. The collection of original songs Dodie has picked for Intertwined is perfect – the end result is a well-rounded, charming insight into how it feels to be muddling through life as a twenty-something, and it’s so refreshing to hear.

Its title track, ‘Intertwined’, shares the tentative, intimate feelings of having a little something with someone and hoping they feel the same but not being quite sure. It’s vulnerable but sincere. I suppose you could say that about the EP as a whole – nothing is amped up to sound too dramatic or extraordinary. Dodie is nothing if not genuine and down-to-earth in her music.

‘Sick of Losing Soulmates’ explores the heartbreak and frustration of losing – or the thought of losing – a best friend; ‘Absolutely Smitten’ is charming and cheerful, encapsulating that butterflies feeling of having a crush who likes you back and all the youthful excitement that comes with it; ‘When’ is a nostalgic longing for when life was easier – perhaps for a time that makes her feel the way Absolutely Smitten sounds. Personally, ‘When’ is particularly hard-hitting. We’ve all been there: those quiet, whimsical moments late at night that see you worrying over the pressure to live the best adult life you can make for yourself and wondering why you can’t trade it all in for the happy, carefree nature of being 16 and your GCSEs being the biggest of your worries.

‘Intertwined’ also includes two interludes which are slightly off-the-wall bursts of character. ‘I Have A Hole In My Tooth (And My Dentist Is Shut)’ documents a real-life experience which pretty much does what it says on the tin. ‘Life Lesson’ is an uplifting contrast to the sometimes raw and emotional subject matter of the EP,  reminding us that even though it can be full of soaring highs and lowest lows, life is best lived to its fullest and the hardship we may face is all part of what makes us human.

What gives Intertwined its richness and depth to me is, having followed Dodie on social media for over a year now, it’s plain to see that the EP reflects her personal development and growth as a person. She’s publically shared her struggles with mental illness and has made no secret of how she indulges in nostalgia. It’s this sort of honesty that just makes the whole thing work so beautifully.

From bedroom uploads of her strumming the ukelele bashfully to polished, lively studio recordings, I’ve loved being on this journey with Dodie and can’t wait to see where she goes next.

Until next time,

Emma x

Living with Joe || Alcohol Awareness Week 2016

Joe is waiting on the front doorstep when you get home from work.

“Good day?” he asks, a glint in his eye.

“I guess so, nothing special,” you reply. You begin to fumble in your rucksack for your keys, but a hand stops you. It’s Joe’s. You look up and he’s smiling wickedly.

“No, allow me,” he says, proudly, before opening the front door to reveal a bombsite. There’s food on the carpet, upturned furniture all over the place and graffiti on the walls. He gestures around the room as you’re left speechless. This is your home. All you want is to sit and relax after a long day.

“What the hell has happened here?” you ask, but Joe is already making work of setting fire to the settee and emptying the kitchen bin all over the floor.

“Deal with it,” he says, definitively. “You’re clearing all this up.” A cushion goes up in flames. “This is all on you.”

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Nobody is really sure when Joe moved in. He just sort of appeared one day, baggage in hand, and made himself comfortable. Bizarrely, your family accommodated him with little fuss – fed whenever he needed it, given all the attention he desired. As obnoxious as you find him, and as much as you hate his presence in your home, he’s just sort of slotted into your life.

Annoyingly, he seems to be wherever you’re going whenever you go out, too. He’s in the supermarket, hiding in the next aisle over ready to jump out when you bump into an old friend.

“Did you hear Emma won the lottery? It’s true! She’s taking all the family on holiday!” His eyes meet yours over the fruit and veg, and he’s got that same infuriating smirk on his face that you see every day. Your friend turns to you, eyes wide with shock, and she’s very excited.

“The lottery? Oh Em, that’s fantastic news!”

You haven’t won the lottery, but now everyone thinks you did. You didn’t even buy a ticket.

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The media’s portrayal of alcoholism and alcoholics, I’ve found, is hideously inaccurate. We tend to see either the extreme cases – Louis Theroux’s doc ‘Drinking To Oblivion’ springs to mind – or the just plain stupid (did anyone else catch that episode of Eastenders where a drunk Phil Mitchell got behind the wheel a construction crane and smashed in his offices?), and that’s it. What we’re not shown is the ordinary, everyday life of a functioning alcoholic, and how it feels to live with one.

My own experience of living with an alcoholic is like living with a Joe. Here’s a few things you may not realise.

1) There’s no on and off switch. When you live with an alcoholic, it’s always at the forefront of your mind – you’re never quite sure what you’re coming home to, and even when things seem okay you can’t relax because you’re wondering how many seconds are left on that ticking time bomb.

2) Alcoholism is entirely separate from the alcoholic themselves. It’s just an illness, an add-on, in the same way a broken leg (or a Joe) is. It can be frustrating, sometimes, to see an alcoholic who falls apart at home put on a positive face out and about when you know that’s not the full story – but that’s why they do it. An alcoholic is not their alcoholism and if they can hide it, then why wouldn’t they?

Finally, and maybe most importantly,

3) if you live with a functioning alcoholic, or are close to somebody who is a functioning alcoholic, your concern is just as valid as it would be if they were pouring vodka on their cornflakes and sleeping rough. It’s okay to feel angry, upset and hopeless, that your efforts simply aren’t enough. It’s okay to seek help, for them AND for you.

It’s Alcohol Awareness Week, and I didn’t feel I could let it pass without sharing my own experience. If you know of anyone struggling with alcoholism, to any extent, I urge you to reach out and offer your support however you can. Even just lending an ear can go such a long way.

https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-support-services/

Blind Faith by Ben Elton | Review

I read a really cool book recently. It was hilarious, off-the-wall and a little bit scary – everything a dystopian novel should be.

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‘Blind Faith’ by Ben Elton is fascinating. It follows Trafford, a member of this crazy, futuristic, dystopian London, where every movement is broadcast, privacy is damned and every member of the community worships a God-like figure referred to as The Love.

Trafford’s day-to-day life, on the surface, seems much like our own – he lives in an apartment with his wife and daugther, takes the tube to work and has a passion for learning. Very quickly, however, we learn that the London Trafford lives in is a warped caricature of our own. The city seems to operate on a ‘more is more’ policy, with nobody practising any self control – clothes are unnecessary, food is sickly sweet and comes in mountainous quantities.

Bizarrely, and worryingly, this new London is also entirely void of medical treatment. Infant mortality is at an all-time high, with 1 in 2 children dying before their first birthday. Vaccination is unheard of, and those who vaccinate their children are punishable by death. In Trafford’s London, terminal disease is a symbol of the Love’s protection – the Love takes newborns to protect them and bring them closer to His Everlasting Love.

Trafford doesn’t fit the mould of the times he lives in. He has a lot of questions, to which he desperately needs answers.

There’s two aspects of Blind Faith that have catapulted it so far up my list of favourite books. Firstly, it’s essentially one big philosophical debate, masked in a surreal setting that is so absurd it’s laugh-out-loud funny and propped up on the timeless Creationist/Evolutionist discussion. However, all common sense views are turned on their heads in Blind Faith to build this absurd reality. You think you’ve read the worst, surely it can’t get any more ridiculous than THIS?!, but then it does – and it’s like that for the whole novel.

The other aspect is that, scarily, everything Trafford experiences is so relatable to the world we live in in 2016. Giving children ridiculous names, sharing intimate details of their lives on their blogs and livestreams, blindly following the word of the Love without a second thought (I’m, uh, looking at you, Trump supporters…) rings a little too true with the way in which technology is integrated in our lives at the moment. It’s crazy, and all so, so exaggerated, but the entire time I was reading there was this niggling ‘what if…?’ that I just couldn’t shake.

In summary: LOVED IT. If you like your satire both intelligent and by the bucketload, but also like a book that starts a dialogue and gets you thinking, then Blind Faith is a novel you really can’t miss.

Until next time,

Emma x

NaNoWriMo 2016 – it’s on!

Yep, the rumours are true (literally nobody is spreading rumours Emma, sit down) – I’m giving NaNoWriMo a crack this year, which means, in turn, by November 30th I should (hopefully) have written my first proper novel.

Exciting!

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For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo – or National Novel Writing Month – is an online scheme which runs in November every year. The premise is simple: give up your spare time, your everyday routine and a small portion of your soul and get that idea for a 50,000 word novel that you’ve been sitting on forever written into something to be proud of. The website itself – http://nanowrimo.org – allows you to create a profile in which you announce your novel, update your word count, and generally share your progress with likeminded novelists-to-be. There’s a really cool feature for those who have time to commit their online and everyday life to getting their novel penned, which involves selecting your geographical location and being drafted into meetups in your area to discuss plots, ideas, and hash out any little niggles you might be having with things like character development or creating the perfect setting. I’m routinely receiving emails from the Birmingham group, but living a good hour away and holding down a full-time job at the same time as trying to write means I’m relying on the Twitter community to get me through the long haul!

So, my novel. My novel isn’t the story I originally set out to write. I spent the best part of my summer fabricating a fictional island and a host of characters to write this coming-of-age, YA-style piece in which I shamelessly offloaded all my personal problems and struggles onto this character I’d created. It felt a bit too personal, and I attempted to turn it into a murder mystery, but it wasn’t working for me.

In the past week alone, I’ve started from scratch and I’ve now got my whole plot AND a sub plot in mind. It’s day 2 of NaNoWriMo and I’m already a few thousand words in. I’ve never felt so motivated to write!

In a little writing break a few nights ago I wrote this little blurb, which I’ll share with you all to give you an idea of what sort of thing I’m writing. It’ll by no means be perfect, and I’m not sure the finished piece will ever go further than my own hard drive, but here it is!

Years into the future, a bustling capital city is in the throes of a meteorological movement dubbed the Magna Metum. From the Latin meaning ‘great fear’, the Magna Metum has shrouded the city in darkness, clogged the air with harmful chemicals and invoked a fear of one’s neighbour in each citizen.

Frank Mallory was once the posterchild superhero, whose reputation was left in tatters upon renouncing his powers to start a family. Now a social outcast, estranged from his wife, Frank lives alone in the apartment he can’t afford to maintain, visited only by his former agent-turned-best friend family man Fuzz. Desperate to reconnect with his runaway son, Rover, and to bring back his public image from where it sits in the gutter, could the lead on the cause of Magna Metum Frank has inadvertantly unearthed be the solution to all of his problems?

Happy writing, everyone! If you’re taking part in NaNoWriMo too, I’d love to hear what you’ve got up your sleeve.

Until next time,

Emma x